Don’t get TCU men’s basketball coach Trent Johnson wrong. He was thrilled to see Amric Fields’ success in his first game back in over a year.
Fields, who scored 16 points on 7 of 9 shooting, grabbed seven rebounds and provided a block in the final seconds to preserve the Horned Frogs’ 64-62 win at Washington State on Sunday afternoon, made it look much easier than it was.
His return has been a grind after a knee injury in the third game of last season required several surgeries and long rehab process.
“It’s one game,” Johnson cautioned. “We need to take this one game at a time. Everybody doesn’t need to expect him to come out and be a world-beater every time and have a game like that.”
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For one, Fields’ missed time on the floor has left him out of shape. Much of the team’s summer practices and off-season workouts that require running, have been limited while his knee healed.
He’ll likely come off the bench again when TCU (2-2) takes on Alaska-Anchorage (5-1) at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage, Alaska at 1 a.m. central time Thursday morning. TCU plays either Indiana State or Tulsa on Friday.
Johnson, who grew up in Seattle, was an assistant at Stanford when he made his first trip the Great Alaska Shootout. TCU last played in the tournament in 1995.
“It’s very competitive,” Johnson said. “My first trip over here we had to fight to beat Alaska-Anchorage. It’s beautiful country and the hosts here do a very good job, but it is a business trip.”
For Fields, who wasn’t made available for this story, it’s a business trip months in the making. His return to the team was consistently stalled by inadequate progress with his knee and he was forced to watch TCU’s first three games from the sidelines.
“He went through a lot in terms of the sacrifices he had to make over the last year because of his injury,” Johnson said. “Obviously, when you have a guy of his caliber it helps your team a lot because he can pass it, shoot it and you had guys playing out of position.”
Fields’ return is huge, not only for the talent he brings to the floor, but for the additional body Johnson has available. Freshman Hudson Price didn’t make the trip while he recovers from concussion-like symptoms.
“The main thing for me is I need to make sure he’s comfortable and he’s able to play and help us when we know there’s not going to be any setbacks,” Johnson said. “I thought he was exceptional, but still, he’s a long way from being in the conditioning he needs to be in, so let’s just take it one practice, one day at a time.”
The conditioning issue is important because it could lead to another injury if Fields isn’t careful to not overexert his body.
“I’m happy for him. I just don’t want anymore setbacks,” Johnson said. “It’s our responsibility that we play him only when he’s comfortable. He’s not in shape. This game is hard enough to play if you’re healthy, let alone if you haven’t played in a year. You’ve got a guy coming back off major knee surgery, he’s not in shape. It’s going to take a while.”