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May 18, 2014

Thomas hopes to add punch to OU interior

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University of Houston junior forward TaShawn Thomas, made public his intentions to transfer to the University of Oklahoma Sunday evening.

Thomas, standing 6-feet-8, averaged 15.4 points and 13.6 boards per game last season at Houston. He was one of just three American Athletic Conference players to rank among the top 10 in scoring and rebounding per game in the league.

He was considering OU and Miami before determining Norman was the right move for the Killeen, Texas, native.

"It was a hard decision," Thomas said. "Both schools were a great fit for me, but I just felt like OU was the best fit for me because I only have one year to play?"

Thomas earned All-American Conference second team honors as a junior and was named to the All-Conference USA first team as a sophomore. His decision to transfer comes six weeks after former OU coach Kelvin Sampson accepted the head-coaching job at Houston.

As a Division I transfer, Thomas might have to sit out the 2014-15 season. The only way he would be allowed to play at OU next season would be if he submits an appeal to the NCAA, and the NCAA accepts his appeal.

While Thomas plans to submit an appeal to play right away, it's no guarantee the NCAA will grant it.

"I feel confident that they will, but if they don't then I don't have a problem sitting out [a year]," Thomas said.

When Thomas received his release from Houston last month, he said Oklahoma assistant Lew Hill was one of the first coaches to reach out to him.

"He came down to Houston right when everybody found out that I had my release, and we kind of hit it off," Thomas said. "I feel like me going there is only going to make our relationship better."

Thomas will no doubt make the Sooners better, too. OU was woefully undersized in 2013-14 with a limited rotation in the post.

Junior Ryan Spangler led the league in rebounding, and junior D.J. Bennett developed into a formidable defensive presence around the basket, but the Sooners lacked size all the same.

OU coach Lon Kruger and his staff have tried to account for that weakness with the signing of two big men in Khadeem Lattin and Jamuni McNeace.

But both McNeace and Lattin, as incoming freshmen, are raw and unproven. Thomas plans to try to teach the young guys what he's learned throughout his career.

"I feel like, with the experience I have, I think I can help them out a lot," Thomas said. "I feel like I can contribute more there because they've got those younger guys, and I can pass on my experience onto them."

Thomas will provide OU with another post player to work in tandem with Spangler -- be it this year or the next.

OU's earning a trip to the NCAA tournament in consecutive years along with the pieces already in place convinced Thomas he would not only be joining a good program but a program he could help win.

The Sooners are still looking for that first elusive postseason victory in the Kruger era, and Thomas thinks he could be the man that helps them achieve that goal -- and perhaps a bit more.

"I didn't want to transfer to any team I didn't think I could win with in my last year," Thomas said. "That contributed to it. I feel like they could've have won something last year. Adding me to the team I think could help them out. Just adding more to a team that's already good."

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