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Sooners' `chameleon' adjusting to new role again

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NORMAN, Okla. (AP)

Three years into her college career, Amanda Thompson is used to doing the dirty work for Oklahoma's basketball team. Playing alongside All-America center Courtney Paris and her twin sister, Ashley, it has been Thompson's job to do all the little things to keep the Sooners on a winning track. She was second on the team in assists and steals and third in rebounds and blocks last season as Oklahoma went to its second Final Four. With the Paris twins now gone, coach Sherri Coale is calling on the senior to take on a new role again. Coale expects Thompson to slide over to the power forward position, where she'll be able to play inside and outside as the Sooners return to the motion offense. "I've always had to play a lot of different roles, but this year in particular, I definitely have to show a great deal of leadership and just bring in different parts of my game all into one," Thompson said Tuesday at the team's annual media day. "I can't just be a post player. I can't just be a guard. I'm going to have to be both." Coale thinks the switch will be a natural fit for Thompson, a 6-foot-1 forward from Chicago. She's played primarily at the small forward position with the Parises occupying the post in recent years, but the end of their careers will mark the return of Coale's preferred uptempo style. That means Thompson will be able to post up players inside but also use her creativity and drive to the basket from the perimeter. "I'm so excited I can hardly wait," Coale said. "I think this is going to be the year that she has worked for. She feels comfortable, you can tell. She is at peace with her position, with her role, with her teammates, with the work ethic in the gym. Everything fits for her, you can tell. She's in that place that great things happen." Thompson said part of her role change this year will include being more aggressive on offense. She ended up as the sixth-leading scorer on the team last season, with her average dropping from 8.9 to 6.8 points per game, as she deferred to the Parises and guards Danielle Robinson and Whitney Hand to handle the scoring. Someone will have to pick up the slack this year, particularly without Courtney Paris - the school's career scoring leader and the NCAA's top rebounder of all time. "I'm looking for a breakout season," Robinson said of Thompson. "I definitely think (the uptempo offense) plays to her style of play." Coale said the position switch won't have Thompson doing different things than she has in the past, but she'll find a different flow to the game. "She has been a chameleon. Whatever we need her to be, she has become," Coale said. Thompson missed a game for the first time in her college career in the first round of the NCAA tournament this March, as she was recovering from a foot injury. She played sparingly in the next two rounds before providing a key spark off the bench in a win against Purdue that vaulted the Sooners into the Final Four. In the Sooners' loss to Louisville in the national semifinals, Thompson struggled through 11 scoreless minutes with three turnovers. "It was tough for me because all I wanted to do was just help and be a part of that. The injury set me back, but I just tried to use my voice and help my teammates along the way," Thompson said. "It was like months ago now, and it's a new me. I'm 100 percent and just trying to stay healthy so I can make a difference." In a sign of Thompson's importance to the program, she was elected as a team captain for the third straight year. "There are kids that come through your program that you just think what a blessing it is to coach them on a daily basis. A.T. is one of those kids," Cole said. "If you say, 'Run through the wall,' she'll turn and run through the wall. It doesn't matter what you ask her to do. She's ready to do it."

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