TCU opens men’s basketball practice with high hopes despite more injuries

Posted Monday, Oct. 07, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Key dates Nov. 8: Season opener vs. SMU at American Airlines Center, 6:30 p.m. Nov. 12: Home opener vs. Longwood, 7 p.m. Jan. 4: Big 12 opener at home vs. West Virginia, 3 p.m.

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TCU men’s basketball coach Trent Johnson tried his best to accentuate the positive as his team opened practice Monday.

And he has plenty of reasons to be excited, beginning with some talented young additions to his roster. The freshman class includes center Karviar Shepherd, forward Brandon Parrish and guards Hudson Price and Michael Williams, who together not only infuse the team with more talent but give Johnson a full roster to work with.

Johnson, however, couldn’t ignore the off-season injury problems that plague his team. Forward Devonta Abron and center Aaron Durley will miss the season with knee injuries. Durley re-injured the same knee that sidelined him for all of last year. That leaves TCU thin at the post while Johnson keeps his fingers crossed that UTEP transfer Chris Washburn is granted a waiver to play this season.

Washburn, who attended South Grand Prairie, would help fill the void while forward Amric Fields continues to recover from a knee injury that ended his season three games in a year ago. Fields is still about three weeks away from being able to go full speed, Johnson said. That would give Fields about a week before the season opener against SMU on Nov. 8 at American Airlines Center.

“I’m not so sure anyone had as many guys get hurt last year,” Johnson said. He’s cautiously optimistic about Fields’ return, but the loss of Abron and Durley hurts.

“I can’t go through another year like last year,” he said, before joking, “Just come shoot me. We have good insurance. Just put me out of my misery.”

TCU finished 11-21 and 2-16 in the Big 12 in Johnson’s first season. The team played four games in Canada over the summer, and the young players responded well to the competition, Johnson said. The Frogs were able to practice 10 times before the Canadian tour, which has helped their progress, especially Shepherd.

“He’s as coachable a young man as I’ve been around,” Johnson said, before heaping the same praise on Price, Parrish and Williams.

“The key is when this thing starts to get tough, are they going to stay the course?” he wondered aloud. “There are a lot of teams we’re going to play this year where physically, we’re not going to match up.”

Johnson hopes to have a more mentally tough team this season so that some of the close games the Frogs lost a year ago could turn into victories. TCU’s 12-game nonconference schedule gives it a chance at some early success before the onslaught of tough league play begins Jan. 4.

“I like our schedule because it’s conducive to this basketball team’s growth and development,” he said. “We still have guys that are unproven at this level, and we still have guys that are banged up. That’s the worst thing you can do — is over-schedule a team that’s not ready to compete at a high level.”

Stefan Stevenson 817-390-7760 Twitter: @FollowtheFrogs

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