TCU’s sight-seeing stretch of its NIT trip reached a temporary hiatus Monday, with the potential for more activities if the Horned Frogs (22-15) defeat Central Florida (24-11) in Tuesday’s semifinals matchup in Madison Square Garden (8 p.m., ESPN).
A victory would secure a spot in Thursday’s title game, with opportunities to soak in more sights. As of Monday’s afternoon practice at Baruch College, coach Jamie Dixon said the focus would be “all business now.”
But players were still buzzing about Sunday’s charter flight to Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newbugh, N.Y. before a practice at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where Dixon’s sister Maggie once coached the women’s team.
Maggie Dixon died of a heart arrhythmia episode on April 6, 2006 at age 28, shortly after leading her team to a Patriot League championship. Through that family connection with the academy, Dixon was able to use Army’s gym for a Sunday practice before giving the players some free time Sunday night in New York.
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“I wanted them to know a little bit about me and my family. And to know about my sister. I’m very proud of her,” Dixon said. “And I wanted them to know about West Point: the cadets, the commitment, the service. These are the guys who will be serving and protecting our country. I think they got a sense of that.”
Forward Karviar Shepherd, a senior with multiple military members in his family, called the trip “emotional.” He particularly enjoyed touching a chunk of the Berlin Wall on display at the academy.
“That was pretty cool,” Shepherd said. “I have a lot of family in the military, so it was awesome to see how they cherish everything they have at that school. I appreciate everything they’re doing for our country.”
Once in New York, the players were free to experience the city Sunday night before a team-mandated curfew. Forward Chris Washburn scored a pair of new shoes that he showed off at Monday’s news conference.
Guard Brandon Parrish, a senior from Arlington Seguin, got his first glimpse of Times Square, New York skyscrapers and Italian pizza.
“It was really good. It definitely beats our Texas pizza,” Parrish said. “A lot more original ingredients.”