Part of the balancing act for a college basketball coach is trying to win in the moment while also keeping an eye on the future.
Injuries and other off-the-court issues can decimate a team's roster in a flash.
For TCU men's basketball coach Jamie Dixon, a series of unfortunate breaks have altered the course of the season, chief among them the season-ending injury to point guard Jaylen Fisher.
Fisher's injury in early January seemed to point toward freshman guard R.J. Nembhard losing his redshirt and assuming a more active role. But Nembhard has dealt with his own injuries, leaving him unavailable for much of December and January.
With seven games left in the Big 12 regular season, the Horned Frogs (16-8, 4-7 in the Big 12) have decided to continue red-shirting Nembhard to preserve a full year of eligibility.
Never miss a local story.
"We just feel like it’s the best thing for us long-term and the best thing for him," Dixon said of Nembhard, who graduated from Keller.
Complicating matters is the availability of guard Shawn Olden, who was limited to seven minutes after hitting his head on the court in Tuesday's loss at Kansas. Dixon doesn't know if Olden will be available Saturday when the Frogs host Texas (15-9. 5-6) at 1 p.m. at Schollmaier Arena.
The thin roster, which Dixon acknowledged is partly self-inflicted, has limited the style of practice Dixon would prefer to run, going back to September. Center Kevin Samuel and Lat Mayen weren't even cleared to practice with the team until mid-December. TCU expects both to be major contributors next season.
The lack of bodies has been a factor in TCU's defensive issues, Dixon said. And even now he's in danger of over-extending his core eight players. Alex Robinson and Kenrich Williams each played 39 minutes against Kansas. Vladimir Brodziansky and Kouat Noi each played at least 31 minutes. That workload limits the intensity you want your starting five exerting between games.
"Our lack of ability to practice the way we normally do all of the fall and winter has been part of our deficiencies," Dixon said. "And just the pure numbers. The risk of injury, the risk of fatigue. We wouldn’t normally want our guys to be playing the minutes they’re playing. But we’re in very good position for down the road."