TCU men show improvement before Big 12 opener

01/03/2014 8:04 PM

11/12/2014 3:36 PM

TCU men’s basketball coach Trent Johnson knocked on his wooden desk as he considered the injury situation he dealt with in 2013. It’s a new year, and he hopes 2014 brings better health for his players.

The Horned Frogs’ luck started turning last week when Amric Fields returned from a broken hand to play in the nonconference finale. TCU (9-3) opens its second season in the Big 12 against West Virginia (8-5) at 3 p.m. Saturday at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum.

“Considering the amount of road games we had and the amount of guys that were playing out of position, so to speak, for us to win that many games and remain as healthy as we can be, it has to be a positive,” Johnson said. “The main goal was to find ways [to win].”

Although Johnson is still dealing with less than a full complement of players, with preseason injuries to Aaron Durley and Devonta Abron and transfer Chris Washburn unable get clearance from the NCAA to play this season, his team has improved immensely. Much of the improvement is a credit to the freshman class of players, including starters Karviar Shepherd and Brandon Parrish.

“From all of our freshmen we’ve got some type of contribution to help our team,” Fields said. “Karviar’s defense, Brandon’s shooting, Hudson’s [Price] toughness. I’m really excited for all of them. They’re playing well.”

The Big 12, however, still presents a supreme hurdle for the Frogs. Even with their improvement, each game, including against the Mountaineers, is a test to mark said improvement.

“The facts don’t lie,” Johnson said about the Big 12, before restating a comment he made during the league’s media day. “You just have to look at what’s happened in nonconference. If we’re supposed to be the bottom of this league, it’s a pretty good league. I think we’ve proven that.”

Kyan Anderson’s steady play at point guard has also been a big factor in TCU’s early success this season. They’ve won games few expected them to win on the road, including at Washington State and Mississippi State.

“We’ve got some real good quality wins, and I think that was a big test for us. Knowing that we can win on the road makes it easier to win at home,” said Fields, who will be playing in his first Big 12 game after missing last season with a knee injury. “I think we’re really excited for conference play. I definitely do think it’s top to bottom better than last year.

“I got to see West Virginia on TV a couple times and they’re picked to finish in the lower level and they look like they can beat anybody. That’s how talented the conference is.”

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