Transfer brought festering dislike to OU

Thomas, Sooners face conference-contending Longhorns on national stage

TaShawn Thomas doesn’t have much experience with Big 12 opponents after spending the first three years of his college career at Houston.

He’s only played two and was barely even recruited by the top two Big 12 schools in his home state of Texas.

Thomas grew up in Killeen, almost smack dab in between the campuses of Baylor and Texas.

Neither offered and neither showed much interest.

Even though he grew up a Texas football fan, Thomas didn’t have to acclimate to his teammates distaste of the Longhorns. Thomas played the Longhorns’ as a sophomore, when Houston upset Texas, and his dislike has been festering since that day.

“When I got to college I started hating Texas,” Thomas said. “. . . That’s when the hatred kind of started.”

Thomas – and the No. 18 Sooners – will be reunited with the Longhorns in just the second Big 12 game of the season Monday night. Oklahoma will drive past Thomas’ hometown and into hostile territory.

“When we played them, it was a real physical game with a lot of trash talking,” Thomas said of his only other game against Texas. “A lot of people on their team at the time were from Houston. It was just, like, hectic. . . . From then on, I just don’t like them anymore.”

That game two years ago was in Houston, so playing in Austin will bring its own source of pride. It’ll be the closest that Thomas, who also played Texas Tech while at Houston, has ever played during his college career.

He’ll experience a few more nearby trips this season playing in what he thought would be much more physical conference play than what he has been used to playing.

His teammates and coach don’t think he’ll have any problem acclimating.

“No, I’m not worried,” Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler said before the Sooners’ conference-opening win against Baylor. “He’s a veteran. He knows how to play, knows what he needs to do. I’m not worried about him.”

Thomas picked up play in the Big 12 pretty quickly on the offensive end in the Sooners’ conference opener against No. 22 Baylor on Saturday. He finished with a game-high 24 points and eight rebounds in the Sooners’ 10-point victory.

He struggled defensively when matched up one-on-one with Baylor’s long, athletic front court early but changed that in the second half.

“He’s doing well. He’s more and more comfortable each ball game,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “. . . They know what lies ahead.”

First, it’s a Big Monday match with No. 11 Texas: A homecoming of sorts for Thomas.

“It’s gonna be crazy,” Thomas said. “When I was in high school a lot of my games were in Austin. . . . I’m gonna have a lot of family and friends there. It’s gonna feel kind of like a high school game with way more competition. I’m ready to be out there and close to home, basically home.”

Sooners Illustrated Top Stories