Thomas taking sophomore season in stride
During middle school, sophomore forward TaShawn Thomas was the last player picked on the playground for pick-up games. At the time, he was a guard, before a growth spurt in ninth grade made it necessary for a position change.
Thomas said he applied the skills he learned as a guard — like ball handling and mid-range shooting — to his play at the forward position, allowing for more versatility in his game.
Thomas’ diverse skill set led to him being named Conference USA player of the week after averaging 21 points and 10.5 rebounds per game and leading the Cougars to victories against Texas Southern and TCU.
Thomas, the Cougars’ leading scorer, said he has had to pick his spots offensively to offset the way defenses have catered their game plan to stopping him. He has given the Cougars an inside presence that can hit the mid-range jumper, head coach James Dickey said.
“I’m noticing that a lot of defenses are starting to double me at the beginning of the game or they’ll play real aggressive,” Thomas said. “I stay patient so I can find someone else on the team for a shot. As the game goes on that’s when I can get my offense and start getting easy buckets.”
In an overtime victory against Texas Southern, Thomas tied the game with a career-high of 23 points. His three-point play midway through overtime gave his team a 72-66 lead and clinched his fourth 20-point performance this season.
In a road contest with TCU, Thomas scored 19 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the year and the 14th of his career.
Thomas’ versatility on offense is the biggest difference between him as a freshman and sophomore, Dickey said. This season Thomas is averaging 17.6 points per game, compared to 10.7 last season.
“Last year we primarily played Thomas inside. We’re trying to free him up so he doesn’t have to battle down there as much on the block,” Dickey said. “It’s allowed him to still get the ball on the block but also in that face up position.”
Thomas has also brought a new mentality into his sophomore season, Dickey said.
Thomas said he and the coaching staff prepared in the offseason for increased attention by defenses since he is the Cougars’ leading returning scorer.
“I learned how to slow down, read the floor and see where people are at,” Thomas said. “If someone is playing defense, I can see how they’re guarding them and see how to go around them.”