TCU men’s basketball coach Jamie Dixon remains in the process of defining roles for players as the Horned Frogs head into Sunday’s game against Texas Southern, one of two nonconference contests left before the start of Big 12 play.
But after 10 games, he’s reached a conclusion about the four seniors on this year’s roster, a group Dixon calls the “believers” because they have embraced his vision of lifting the TCU program to prominence and have been key contributors in the team’s 9-1 start.
Between them, the foursome of forward Karviar Shepherd, guard Brandon Parrish, forward Chris Washburn and guard Michael Williams have combined to average 17.3 points per game while playing between 4.8 and 21.4 minutes per contest. None of the four ranks among TCU’s top six scorers, although Shepherd is tied for the team lead in starts (nine).
“This senior group, maybe they won’t be our leading scorers or our leading rebounders. But they’re good leaders,” Dixon said. “They’ve been through a lot and they’ve stayed. It’s shown a commitment and a toughness that we can use to our benefit.”
After a break for final exams and five consecutive days of practices, TCU returns to action against Texas Southern (4-6) seeking to build on one of the best starts to any season in school history Sunday at Schollmaier Arena (5 p.m., ESPNU). TCU can reach double digits in victories in its 11th game, a feat matched or topped only twice in the past 20 seasons.
This senior group, maybe they won’t be our leading scorers or our leading rebounders. But they’re good leaders. They’ve been through a lot and they’ve stayed. It’s shown a commitment and a toughness that we can use to our benefit.
TCU men’s basketball coach Jamie Dixon
TCU opened with a 13-0 run in the 2014-15 season under former coach Trent Johnson before finishing 18-15. During 1997-98, the Frogs posted a 10-1 break from the gate under former coach Billy Tubbs before finishing 27-6 after a first-round loss in the NCAA Tournament.
Parrish, an Arlington Seguin graduate, has thrived in his sixth-man role after starting all 33 games last season. He’s averaged 7.2 points and 21.4 minutes per contest, including a season-high 20 points against Jacksonville State on Nov. 18.
“I can’t say enough about him, character wise. He’s a great representative of TCU,” Dixon said. “We’ve asked him to be more of a post defender. We’ve asked him to improve his assists-to-turnover ratio and he’s responded. People have to believe for us to turn this program around. He’s bought in completely to this new TCU.”
2 Times in the last 20 seasons that TCU has enjoyed a faster start to a men’s basketball season than the Frogs’ current 9-1 mark. TCU opened 13-0 during the 2014-15 season and 10-1 in 1997-98.
In breaking down his new role, Parrish said: “It doesn’t matter who starts. I just want to be that life, that energy, whenever I come off the bench or whenever I’m in the game. So we can have a spark out there.”
The other seniors have expressed similar sentiments. Shepherd, who has averaged 5.8 points and 3.1 rebounds per contest, praised Dixon for his efforts in making sure the seniors were not forgotten during a season marked by the emergence of three impact newcomers at the guard spots: freshman Jaylen Fisher (11.4 points, 4.1 assists per game), freshman Desmond Bane (8.6 average) and sophomore Alex Robinson (11.1 points, 5.7 assists), a transfer from Texas A&M and a Mansfield Timberview graduate.
“He’s not pushing us off like some other coaches would have done,” Shepherd said. “What he’s done just builds confidence in us and makes us want to play even harder for him. Obviously, he wants us to show our leadership with the younger guys.”
For TCU, the defining contests in Dixon’s inaugural season have yet to be played. But after 10 games, Dixon has learned he can lean on his senior “believers.”
TCU men vs. Texas Southern
5 p.m. Sunday, ESPNU