First-year coach's impact on Horned Frogs basketball more than cosmetic

TCU forward Adrick McKinney was being pressured by his mom to cut his hair long before coach Trent Johnson entered the scene last April.

The former Trimble Tech High School star had cornrows that dangled behind his neck, something that didn't faze former coach Jim Christian, who was a mellow, to-each-his-own type of coach.

That's not Johnson's style, and it didn't take long for McKinney, a senior playing his last season as a Horned Frog, to realize the days were numbered for his nearly 3-year-old hairstyle.

"He felt like me cutting my hair was me becoming a man," McKinney said. "And my mom, she wanted me to cut it for a long time, too. So when he came in it was like, 'Oh, well I really need to cut it.'"

The week before school resumed in August, McKinney cut his hair, restyled into a more conservative, close-to-the-head shave.

McKinney's transformation runs deeper than just hairstyle. He has been the Frogs' best rebounder this season and grabbed a career-high 20 rebounds against Houston, the most for any Big 12 player this season.

"He listens and if they all listen they're going to be as good a players as they can be," Johnson said. "He's strong, and he understands if he sets screens in our system and he rolls and if he makes good decisions he's going to be able to score. He's done an excellent job defensively. He's our best on-ball defender in the post. He can do more. I mean the way we shoot it, the way we miss, there's a lot out there to be had."

TCU (6-4), which is back on the court at 8 tonight against Southern (4-5) at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum, has struggled offensively during nonconference play. The Frogs are last in the Big 12 in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and 3-pointers with 27 -- 13 fewer than the next-lowest team. In short, rebounding is imperative for the Frogs to compete when Big 12 play begins Jan. 5. It's something Johnson has stressed since arriving in April.

"He always told me he was going to push me no matter what, even if I'm comfortable or not," McKinney said. "He told me I can't come back after this season and look him in his face and tell him he didn't push me. So everything he tells me to do, I just try to do it. I just bought in and try to get better every day."

McKinney's success so far makes the extra work, the hair-cutting, all worth it.

"When I come to practice every day I tell myself to keep working because it pays off," he said. "If you work hard in practice it pays off in games. Even if I'm tired, if he sees I'm fatigued, he says don't hang your head, keep your hands off you knees, breathe, push through."

Johnson believes he can get more out of McKinney, including improved free-throw shooting and more consistency late in games.

McKinney's change in appearance could be symbolic of a deeper change within the program that Johnson is trying to instill.

"These kids are in a situation where they are visible across the country," Johnson said. "I always look at it as a job interview."

Sometimes those types of changes are difficult to measure or put a face on, but McKinney's emergence, new hairstyle and all, fits the bill.

"He's more of a do-how-I-say, do-how-I-want-it coach or you're not going to play," McKinney said. "You have to do everything right. With us doing everything right, we become better players and a better team. The little stuff I didn't use to do, I do now."

As for the hair, McKinney is happy with his new look.

"I told myself I wasn't going to cut it until after I got out of college but I cut it anyway," he said. "I'm happy now. It's good that I cut it. It makes me look more mature, more presentable. That's why I cut it."

Stefan Stevenson


Twitter: @FollowtheFrogs

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