TCU tips off new season against SMU with hopes to elevate program

Posted Thursday, Nov. 07, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
TCU vs. SMU 6:30 p.m. Friday, American Airlines Center Last season’s records: TCU 11-21, SMU 15-17 TV: FSSW Plus Radio: KTCU/88.7 FM; KCLE/1460 AM

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Since arriving on TCU’s campus in June, 6-foot-10 Karviar Shepherd has routinely been asked by inquiring classmates if he plays basketball.

“I’m pretty used to it,” the freshman said last month at Big 12 Media Day in Kansas City, Mo.

If Shepherd has his way, he and the rest of the Horned Frogs’ basketball team will make their presence known beyond the confines of the TCU campus.

Coach Trent Johnson’s second season at TCU tips off at 6:30 p.m. Friday against SMU at American Airlines Center. Expectations are high that Johnson has a roster capable of turning the program in the right direction. The Frogs are coming off an 11-21 season in which they went 2-16 their first year in the Big 12.

The league didn’t get any easier, but TCU’s roster is deeper now after injuries riddled the team’s bench last season. The Frogs are deeper and, frankly, more talented, with a group of freshmen including Shepherd, a highly recruited 6-foot-10 post. Forward Brandon Parrish and guards Michael Williams and Hudson Price should give Johnson more options than he had a year ago.

Plus, shooting guard Jarvis Ray is back from a season-ending injury last season. He led the Frogs in scoring during last week’s exhibition win against Arkansas-Fort Smith.

Transfer Chris Washburn’s status is still unknown. As of 5:30 p.m. Thursday, TCU had not heard from the NCAA as to whether Washburn was granted a waiver to play this season. With season-ending injuries to low-post players Devonta Abron and Aaron Durley and the slow return of forward Amric Fields from a year-old knee injury, the Frogs are thin in the paint. Washburn’s availability would be huge.

Johnson has remained guarded about how much improvement he expects to see in his second year, but he’s been candid about how impressed he’s been with his young players.

“You know there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “Now, how long that tunnel is, I don’t know. How short it is, I don’t know. But I know from what I’ve seen from them is we’re going to work at that every day to get there in a hurry. They’ve made a huge commitment to come here with courage to play when they could have gone to other places.”

For Shepherd, the goal is to raise the profile of TCU’s basketball program, not his.

“I want [the school] to know who the basketball team is as a whole,” he said. “I’m not really focused on me, myself and I. It’s we, as in the team. I wouldn’t allow it either the other way. If one of my players got out of hand, I’d be on them about the team being consistent and having chemistry and being solid because that’s the only way we’re going to win.”

The program’s resurgence won’t happen overnight. There will be growing pains and disappointing nights, perhaps even before conference play begins against West Virginia Jan. 4 at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum. But the team’s summer tour of Canada proved to Johnson that this group has the resiliency to take the hits and bounce back when the Big 12 gantlet arrives.

“Patience is a virtue,” Shepherd said. “You have to be patient to see everything that’s going on.”

When asked what opponents should look for when preparing to play him, Shepherd, once again, deferred to the team.

“I’ll put out a scouting report for the whole team,” he said. “Be ready, because we’re coming and we’re going hard.”

Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @FollowtheFrogs

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