Fraschilla: TCU’s Dixon awakens ‘sleeping giant’ in basketball

ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla, who is calling the NIT games in New York, credits TCU men’s basketball coach Jamie Dixon for waking a basketball program he described as “a sleeping giant” because of the school’s proximity to top talent in the Dallas-Fort Worth market.

Fraschilla, a Dallas resident who works lots of Big 12 games during the regular season, spent nine seasons as a college coach at Manhattan (1992-96), St. John’s (1996-98) and New Mexico (1999-2002). He and Dixon have been friends for years and Fraschilla said the two talked frequently about TCU’s potential during Dixon’s 13 seasons at Pittsburgh.

Dixon, a former TCU player, left Pittsburgh to take over the Horned Frogs’ program this season. TCU (23-15) meets Georgia Tech (21-15) in Thursday’s NIT championship game (7 p.m., ESPN) in the final game of Dixon’s inaugural season in Fort Worth.

“When I’d see him in the summer at an AAU tournament or I’d do a Pitt game, I used to say, ‘TCU’s a sleeping giant,’” Fraschilla said. “And we’d go down the reasons why. He always filed it away, I think. He’s always cared about his alma mater.”

Fraschilla said TCU’s updated Schollmaier Arena, combined with the school’s move to the Big 12, have been game-changers for the program.

“If you’re a local kid, you can get everything you want out of college at TCU including playing in one of the best leagues in the country. And the most important thing is, Dallas-Fort Worth has got some of the best high school basketball in America right now,” Fraschilla said. “I think the timing was perfect for him to come home.”

Jimmy Burch: 817-390-7760, @Jimmy_Burch