TCU

How J.D. Miller has become the latest force for TCU basketball

TCU forward J.D. Miller closes in to guard Wofford forward Ryan Sawvell during a Dec. 10 game at Schollmaier Arena.
TCU forward J.D. Miller closes in to guard Wofford forward Ryan Sawvell during a Dec. 10 game at Schollmaier Arena. Special to the Star-Telegram

For weeks, J.D. Miller would take his place for introductions in the TCU starting lineup, shake hands with his teammates and hit the court.

But that was about all.

He’d play a few minutes and sit. In a stretch of five starts in January, he averaged 10 minutes a game.

His impact (5 points, 8 rebounds total) barely registered as the Horned Frogs sank into a four-game losing streak.

But it’s not January anymore, and Miller’s impact could not be more clear.

The sophomore forward from Seagoville High School is 11-for-15 on 3-pointers in the last four games, including a 4-for-4 performance in the Frogs’ nail-biting home victory against Texas Tech last week.

If you see the ball go through the net a couple of times, it gives you kind of that swagger. … The last few games, he’s really been playing confident.

TCU guard Kenrich Williams, on teammate J.D. Miller

He’s given the Frogs averages of 12.8 points and 4.0 rebounds over his last five starts — all since he was replaced in the starting lineup for a game.

“He went through a tough stretch,” coach Jamie Dixon said. “Sat him down, said you’ve got to refocus on basics and discipline and fundamentals. Sometimes, ‘fundamentals’ isn’t a good word to kids, but he’s got to make that a priority. I think it says something that he’s improved.”

Horned Frogs coach Jaime Dixon began stressing that theme before team's loss to 'highly motivated' Baylor.

What changed? Maybe just a simple thing.

Like a shot falling.

“If you see the ball go through the net a couple of times, it gives you kind of that swagger,” junior guard Kenrich Williams said. “At first he wasn’t shooting it as well. He’d kind of lose confidence. The last few games, he’s really been playing confident. It’s showing up, and it’s paying off for him.”

The confidence translates into aggressiveness. Miller has taken 24 3-point shots in the past six games. He had taken 31 in the previous 19.

“After coming into the gym a couple of times, it really shows,” Miller said.

J.D. Miller has hit from 3-point range in the past six games after not making a 3-point shot in the previous six. His four 3s in wins at Kansas State and against Texas Tech were career highs.

Always a high-energy player, Miller has emerged as a motivator in February as the Frogs make a postseason push.

“I think now that he’s starting to learn the system, starting to get very comfortable within the things that we’re doing, and he’s starting to see the ball go down for him, it’s given him a lot more confidence,” senior forward Brandon Parrish said. “With confidence, you feel like you’re credible. So when he speaks up, guys listen to him because he’s out there doing his job.”

The job for Miller actually calls for rebounding and defense more than offense.

“We started him because to us, he was the best defender at that spot,” Dixon said. “He can get more rebounding — more offensive rebounding. That’s something we think he can do better. Skillwise, fundamentals-wise, we’re bound to get better. He has improved. Great energy. He talks on defense. He’s very bright. He gets what we’re trying to do. He’s come a long way. What’s exciting with that, I feel like he can go farther and farther.”

He’s already a long way from January.

Carlos Mendez: 817-390-7760, @calexmendez

TCU vs. Oklahoma State

8 p.m. Wednesday, ESPNU

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