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Keller’s RJ Nembhard ready to fill void if Jaylen Fisher is out for TCU

TCU’s RJ Nembhard confident going into Kansas

TCU freshman guard RJ Nembhard had his best game of the season against Baylor to open Big 12 play. The Frogs could rely on him more with injury concerns surrounding Jaylen Fisher.
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TCU freshman guard RJ Nembhard had his best game of the season against Baylor to open Big 12 play. The Frogs could rely on him more with injury concerns surrounding Jaylen Fisher.

There is no strategy when it comes to how TCU uses junior guard Jaylen Fisher. If he’s healthy and good to go, he’s playing for the Frogs.

There’s no thought about sitting him early in Big 12 play out of an abundance of caution to make sure he’s ready for the stretch run.

“We’ve got to win games,” TCU coach Jamie Dixon said. “There are no positives and no strategy. Talking to trainers and doctors for half of your day is not part of what you want your strategy to be.”

But Fisher remains an injury concern for TCU as league play gets underway. Fisher didn’t play in Saturday’s Big 12 opener against Baylor with a right knee injury, and it doesn’t sound promising for him to be available for Wednesday’s game when No. 25 TCU plays at No. 7 Kansas.

“There’s significant swelling in the knee,” Dixon said. “We had a setback in Hawaii. He felt going into the game he had some questions about it then he warmed up and he said he felt good. He played and was pretty active and drove it more aggressive than he had in any games and he came out feeling pretty good.

“We took a few days off and then there was swelling the next day. When he came back from the break the swelling had not gone down. When I say significant swelling, it’s similar to what he has had, but it hadn’t gone down and hasn’t gone down in a longer period of time. We’ve known it was going to be something that was coming and going.”

The good news for TCU? Redshirt freshman guard RJ Nembhard is making strides and took full advantage of starting in Fisher’s spot against Baylor.

Nembhard, who had a standout career at Keller, had the best game of his young career against the Bears, scoring 10 points on 3 of 5 shooting from the field with three assists and no turnovers. The most clutch points came when Nembhard drained a pair of free throws late in the game to seal TCU’s victory.

Nembhard played 33 minutes and is ready to fill in for Fisher as long as necessary.

“It was definitely a confidence booster,” Nembhard said of his performance against Baylor. “For me to go out there and fill the role for Fish while he’s out … treated it just like another game. Obviously the stakes are higher, it’s conference play, but I try to do my best of staying poised and sticking to the game plan.”

For Nembhard, sticking to the game plan has been a process. At Keller, he was “the man.” The No. 1 – and only – option for the Indians.

This is a guy who averaged 31 points in Keller’s playoff games during his senior season, including scoring 37 against Arlington Bowie in the Class 6A, Region I final. He earned the Star-Telegram’s Super Team Player of the Year honors in 2017.

So it’s been an adjustment transitioning into a role player.

“You’ve got to adjust at every level. You’ve got to do your best to learn and stay focused,” Nembhard said. “It was an adjustment, but I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the process of learning every day.

“It’s difficult at first because you want to do everything right as a freshman, but you got to do your best and not think about it too much. Trust your game and play your game. Know that you’ll make the right play in the right moment.”

Dixon feels Nembhard has done a nice job of just letting the game come to him of late, particularly on the offensive end. He went through a six-game stretch in non-conference play where he combined to go just 1 of 12 from the field.

“He got 10 points [against Baylor] by taking five good shots rather than six points taking 10 bad shots,” Dixon said. “Offensively, our numbers … we’ve been a very good offensive team and we’re a team that really passes the ball. We have a lot of assists. It takes a while for guys to understand – you will get good shots. He’s never played in that situation in high school, other guys getting him shots or other guys who can make shots at the level our guys could. Again, it’s an adjustment for everybody.

“But 3 for 5, three assists, no turnovers [vs. Baylor] … that’s a perfect game on the perimeter.”

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Drew Davison is the TCU and Big 12 sports writer for the Star-Telegram. He’s covered everything in DFW from Rangers to Cowboys to motor sports.

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