The youth movement is underway for TCU’s women’s basketball team.
Gone is the program’s all-time leading scorer and 3-point shooter in Zahna Medley, who is playing professionally in Romania, as eight freshmen and sophomores will look to hit the floor running on a roster with just two seniors in 2016-17.
“You don’t replace Zahna Medley,” coach Raegan Pebley said. “Zahna did so much for us on the floor and off the floor. We’ve got in this freshman class some players who can play a similar role in a different way.”
One player whose offensive game has already drawn comparisons to Medley’s is Amber Ramirez, a point guard from San Antonio and TCU’s first-ever McDonald’s All-American in men’s or women’s basketball. She is also TCU’s highest rated basketball recruit ever, the 12th overall prospect in the class of 2016.
“Amber loves to score, but she’s not going to have the experience,” Pebley said. “We’re trying to help her build that identity into something more than shooting and scoring.”
With a roster as wide open as TCU’s, Ramirez should get plenty of minutes on the floor to spur that development, but she’ll also have a teammate in the backcourt to learn from. Junior guard AJ Alix was TCU’s second-leading scorer (11.9 points per game) a year ago, while dishing just over four assists per game as well.
While Medley was rewriting the TCU record book from 3-point range a year ago, Alix shot a better percentage (.431) from deep and knocked down more than two 3-pointers per game. If she shows anything close to the same level of improvement she showed from her freshman to her sophomore season, she’ll justify her preseason All-Big 12 honorable mention selection, and then some.
“We’ll need great leadership from AJ Alix, Jada Butts and Carol Willie,” Pebley said. Butts, a swing player who averaged nearly nine points in 25 starts a year ago, and Willie, will anchor the Horned Frogs’ frontcourt in terms of experience. But Pebley is also looking for sophomore center Jordan Moore to take the next step in her development after averaging 7.4 points and 4.7 rebounds as a freshman.
“I was really proud of how she produced her freshman year,” Pebley said. “Last year was a really tough year to be a freshman post player in the Big 12, because nearly every team was playing with a lot of experience at that position. Jordan grew and got better.”
If the key pieces of the TCU roster can grow and get better once more, and take that next step collectively, the Horned Frogs could very well improve on last year’s sixth-place finish (tied with Kansas State at 8-10) in conference play. The climb will be a steep one, though, with No. 4 Baylor, No. 8 Texas and No. 22 West Virginia reloading their rosters in one of the deepest conferences in the country.
“The Big 12 is arguably the best women’s basketball conference in the country and you’ve got to go through Texas in a lot of ways to get to the top, and I mean the state of Texas,” Pebley said. “The depth of this league is tremendous.”
TCU’s only scheduled exhibition will be played at 2 p.m. Saturday at Schollmaier Arena against Texas A&M Commerce. The season opens at 8:30 p.m. Friday against Incarnate Word. Five of the Horned Frogs’ first six games are at home.
Matthew Martinez; 817-390-7760; @MCTinez817
TCU women vs. Texas A&M Commerce
2 p.m. Saturday