TCU men’s basketball coach Trent Johnson has taken teams on off-season trips before.
He knows what it can do for his players.
Johnson hopes the Horned Frogs’ four-game Canadian tour, which begins Friday night at the University of Ottawa, helps steer the program toward a better season in 2013-14.
TCU plays four games in four nights, but it was the 10 practices leading up to the tour that had Johnson excited about the trip.
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That, and the fact that top recruit Karviar Shepherd is making the trip after briefly having his eligibility examined by the NCAA. Shepherd, a 6-foot-10 center from Dallas Prime Prep, was cleared to play July 25.
Johnson said he didn’t worry about Shepherd eventually being cleared.
“My job, my responsibility, is to know the facts,” he said. “I’m not going to recruit any kid and wish and hope. We’re not going to recruit a guy not knowing it could happen. I don’t do that. That’s a waste of time, a waste of money.
“When you know him like we know him and know all the facts — I wasn’t going to worry about it. I’ve been advised a long time ago by my mother that you can only control the things you can control and you need to let people do their job. The NCAA did what was best by this young man.”
And with five new faces, including freshmen Brandon Parrish (Arlington Seguin High School), Michael Williams (San Antonio Reagan) and Hudson Price, what is best for the team, Johnson said, is an intensive game atmosphere that not only allows the coaching staff a good look at the roster, but helps the players start to build chemistry.
The Horned Frogs open the season Nov. 8 against SMU at American Airlines Center.
“What’s huge is what’s been going on now, taking advantage of the 10 practices,” he said.
Considering the season-ending injuries to Amric Fields and Aaron Durley and Jarvis Ray’s academic issues, only three players saw significant minutes during TCU’s 11-21 season of 2012-13: Kyan Anderson, Devonta Abron and, to a lesser extent, Charles Hill Jr.
Fields is still recuperating from his knee injury that sidelined him after the third game. The bulk of the team has been on campus since June 11.
By the time school starts Aug. 19, they will have had a combined 12 days apart from one another, Johnson said.
Even the latest recruit, Chris Washburn, a former UT El Paso player who will miss this season because of NCAA transfer rules, watched practice from the sidelines last week.
“It’s huge from a standpoint of practicing and getting these guys out here competing against somebody so we can get a gauge,” said Johnson, who previously took Stanford and LSU on off-season tours of Italy and an all-star team to Greece. “The people we’re playing are good.”
Stanford advanced to the Sweet 16 and LSU earned an NIT berth after taking trips.
Those teams were likely starting at a different level than the one Johnson has in his second season with TCU.
But a four-game swing through Canada with a crop of young, talented newcomers, will give Johnson’s staff and team an early test.
TCU’s Canadian Tour
|Friday||Univ. of Ottawa*|
* Webcast, 7 p.m. go here.