KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Amric Fields had never been to Kansas City before, let alone the Sprint Center, the downtown arena that plays host to the Big 12 Conference championship tournament. He was impressed with the vibrant downtown scene, surprised at how big the city looked and compared it to his hometown of Oklahoma City.
Fields, a junior, looking suave in his new sport coat that coach Trent Johnson helped him pick out, represented Horned Frog basketball with his coach at Wednesday's Big 12 Media Day.
The Sprint Center is one of many new arenas Fields and the Frogs will experience for the first time during their maiden voyage through the league. And for Johnson, who is counting on Fields to build off his solid sophomore season, the jump from the Mountain West to the Big 12 is going to be an eye-opening experience for his team.
"Experience don't mean a thing if you can play," Johnson said, echoing sage advice from legend Bill Russell years ago. "Well, define 'playing'? Playing is when you play against elite-level competition. That's what's going to happen to him; that's what's going to happen to our whole team. But you have to go through it. You can't fast-forward."
Translation: This first year in the Big 12 is a necessary rite of passage for TCU.
Although some would argue -- especially those from New Mexico, San Diego State and UNLV -- that the Mountain West offered elite-level basketball, it's hard to argue against the top-to-bottom strength of the Big 12. Eight of the conference's 10 teams have advanced to at least the NCAA's Sweet 16 since 2005, the highest percentage of any conference. Eight schools have been ranked in the Top 25 at least once in the last three seasons.
The league demands confident players from game to game, and confidence is something Johnson wants to see Fields nurture and use .
"Getting the confidence up is if you miss three shots, you know the fourth one is going in," said Fields, who averaged 9.6 points last season. "Confidence on defense is knowing you're going to get that stop. You're not hoping you get the stop; you know you're going to get it. That's the kind of confidence he's been talking about, and he's been working with me."
Fields was working solo while most other teams brought two or more players for media interviews. That's partly Johnson's style as a coach, but it was also a way to give Fields a chance to cultivate some inner resolve to handle the media gantlet alone.
"Experience has a lot to do with it, but a lot of it comes from within," Johnson said. "The more times you're put in a situation where you can make plays in a game as opposed to a practice, that's how you'll continue to grow and have confidence. He's made strides, but it remains to be seen. There's nothing like game confidence and nothing like game success, and that's going to happen for him sooner rather than later."
Forward Garlon Green could miss three weeks after an ankle sprain last week, Johnson said. The Horned Frogs' first practice was Friday.