At 6-foot-11 and not much over 200 pounds, TCU forward Vladimir Brodziansky looks like he can be pushed around in the rugged Big 12.
“We joke with him all the time about being soft,” teammate Alex Robinson said.
That’s so last month.
Since Dec. 30, when he dropped 28 points, nine rebounds and three blocks on Kansas, the junior from Prievidza, Slovakia, has emerged as one of the biggest threats for TCU in its 14-3 start.
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“He’s gotten a whole lot tougher,” Robinson said.
Last week, Brodziansky had 19 points, six rebounds and three blocks as TCU ended a 30-year winless drought in Austin with a 64-61 win against Texas. His scoop shot with 50 seconds left gave TCU the lead.
Saturday against Iowa State, Brodziansky delivered 25 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks as TCU won 84-77 to go over .500 (3-2) for the first time ever in the Big 12. The performances made Brodziansky TCU’s first-ever Big 12 player of the week.
Last year, he was really good. This year, he’s really made himself a force.
Iowa State guard Naz Mitrou-Long, on TCU forward Vladimir Brodziansky
Now, as TCU (14-3, 3-2) prepares for a Wednesday night game at Texas Tech (13-4, 2-3), Brodziansky is the team leader in scoring and ranks second in the Big 12 in blocks.
“Last year, he was really good,” Iowa State guard Naz Mitrou-Long said. “This year, he’s really made himself a force. He’s one of the most improved players in the conference, I believe.”
New TCU coach Jamie Dixon had hope for the reedy forward, making it a priority when he arrived in the spring to increase Brodziansky’s strength, weight and endurance. But the project got a slow start because Brodziansky was hurt in the summer and fall, limiting his off-season work.
“When we first got here, he was shooting the ball really well,” Dixon said. “Then as things went on, he wasn’t finishing as well. Then he got hurt, and he was out for a long time. To be honest, he wasn’t playing very good.”
But as his health came back, the work began to show for Brodziansky. Dixon stayed on him, working with him every pregame on a “little junior high drill” to keep the ball high.
“He needed it,” Dixon said. “He was the king of bringing the ball down low. But at this point, his improvement as far as keeping the ball up, finishing in crowds, is dramatic.”
TCU junior forward Vladimir Brodziansky leads the team in scoring (12.6 points per game) and is second in the Big 12 in blocks (39) and shooting percentage (61.7).
Brodziansky, scoreless in the season opener and limited in minutes most of November, was in the starting lineup at center by Game 10 and hasn’t left. He’s averaged 14.0 points and 7.0 rebounds with 19 blocks as a starter, and the Frogs are 6-2 in eight consecutive games with him in the starting five alongside Robinson, Kenrich Williams, Jaylen Fisher and JD Miller.
“His body has been his biggest challenge — maintaining, staying healthy, getting stronger, all those things,” Dixon said. “We’re not done. He’s got room to grow.”
One thing that never left Brodziansky is his shooting touch. He is a skilled offensive player near the basket, a trait that attracted former TCU coach Trent Johnson, who brought him to Fort Worth after one season at Pratt Community College in Kansas.
As a sophomore, Brodziansky shot 51.9 percent. This season, he is shooting 61.7 percent, second in the Big 12.
“The first year of Division I competition after a year of junior college, usually that’s a big step,” Dixon said. “They’re not playing against very many big guys in the junior college ranks oftentimes. But Coach Johnson’s coached a lot of big guys over his career — a lot of great big guys — so there were some good tools there to work with. It’s habits, it’s muscle memory. He’s a coachable kid.”
3Career double-doubles for Vladimir Brodziansky at TCU, including Saturday’s 25-point, 14-rebound performance against Iowa State.
To make the go-ahead basket against Texas, Brodziansky stepped into the lane against his man and powered through a help defender to lay in a scoop shot. He made nine of 14 attempts, including a hook shot.
Against Iowa State, he made 11 of 14 shots, including a 3-pointer.
It’s getting to be typical.
“That’s Vlad. That’s all I can say,” Robinson said. “He’s almost like an automatic bucket. I tell him that all the time.”
“My teammates are finding me in great spots,” he said. “I’ve just got to finish.”
Actually, he’s just getting started.
TCU men at Texas Tech
6:30 p.m. Wednesday, FSSW