It's no accident that the Oklahoma women's basketball team has been on a roll as of late.
The recent surge coincides with sophomore forward and former Whitney Young star Amanda Thompson stringing together her best stretch of basketball since arriving in Norman last year.
Thompson still had a successful first year of big-time college basketball. After starting the year on the bench, she played her way into the starting lineup in the final nine games and finished with an average of 5.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. She had six double-figure scoring games for a squad that claimed its second straight conference crown and advanced to the NCAA Tournament's sweet 16.
and was named to the Big 12 All-Rookie team.
"It was a big transition because everything here is played at a different speed," Thompson said. "These are grown women here and my body had to make the transition."
Along with her increased confidence, Thompson's numbers have crept higher this season. She's started all 19 of No. 11 Sooners' games and after Sunday's 74-58 road win over No. 25 Texas, in which she had nine points, eight rebounds and a career-high seven assists, she's fourth on the team in scoring (10.0 points per game) and third in rebounds (6.9).
Among her top games this year was a 14-point, 14-rebound effort Dec. 16 at Michigan State and she led the team in scoring in both of Oklahoma's games two weeks ago, including 18 points and six rebounds in a 65-57 win against then-No. 14 Georgia on Jan. 27.
"I have a clear idea now of what I need to do on the court," she said. "We lost a couple of games we shouldn't have (conference matchups with Baylor and Oklahoma State) but it's going to be exciting to see how we finish."
The Sooners have high aspirations this year but the future may be even brighter. Their roster doesn't contain a single senior and the starting lineup includes Thompson's classmate, point guard Jenna Plumley, and freshman shooting guard Danielle Robinson. There's also the junior sister duo of Courtney and Ashley Paris. Courtney is a reigning first-team All-American who recently became the Big 12's all-time leading rebounder and Ashley is Oklahoma's third-leading scorer.
"Once the NCAA Tournament comes around, people are going to see all of our weapons come out," Thompson said. "There were a few teams early that took advantage of us because we're so young."
Thompson is accustomed to playing at a high level with and against elite players. It would be difficult to find a more decorated Chicago-area high school player in recent memory not named Candace Parker.
Thompson was a three-time Parade All-American and played in the 2006 McDonald's All-American Game. She started every game of her four-year varsity career at Whitney Young and helped the Dolphins to a 103-19 record during that span. She made consecutive trips downstate in her junior and senior seasons but ended up with third-place medals after losing to the eventual state champs, Peoria Richwoods and Bolingbrook.
"Losing (downstate) was pretty tough but it didn't work out," she said. "You can't be a sore loser, though. You can get good things in life out of winning and losing."
Far from a finished product, her success at Oklahoma is the result of consistent work. She says she needs to come off screens better on defense and finish on offense.
"I'm getting better at not being worried about getting beat," she said. "And I'm trying to always make my jump shot more pure."
Until her arrival in Norman, Thompson had a score-first mentality. Now she's added rebounding to her game and is fortunate enough to study the technique of teammate Courtney Paris, who averages 15.2 rebounds per game and has 85 double-doubles in 88 career games.
"I have to work on blocking people out now," Thompson said. "I can't just jump over people like I did in high school. I learn from watching (Paris) and we do a lot of pounding in practice."
Another adjustment the Chicagoan has made in Oklahoma is adapting to the rural lifestyle.
"We're out here in the country; there's not a lot of traffic and it's pretty laid-back," she said. "I figured I had been in Chicago all my life and been seeing the same people every day. I wanted to expand my horizons."
Keeping up with ... Young's Amanda Thompson
ChicagoSports.com follows local high school athletes who have kept up their game after graduation
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