TCU basketball: Why JD Miller is TCU’s best bet to improve its defense

Watch TCU basketball players hilariously debate dunks vs. blocks

TCU men's basketball forwards JD Miller, Kaden Archie and Yuat Alok talk dunking and blocks.
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TCU men's basketball forwards JD Miller, Kaden Archie and Yuat Alok talk dunking and blocks.

If the TCU men’s basketball team is going to take another step this season, it has to improve its defense.

There’s a reason for the cliché, defense wins championships, and TCU understands it wasn’t good enough in that department a season ago.

The Frogs ranked last in the Big 12 in field goal percentage defense (.457) and second-to-last in 3-point percentage defense (.376) and blocked shots (3.6).

Yes, TCU still managed to have a great season with the poor defensive numbers, snapping a 20-year NCAA Tournament drought. But the goal is to build on that season and make a deeper run in March this time around.

There is a good buzz around the men’s basketball team right now with the season just a week away. Season tickets are sold out as TCU opens against CSU Bakersfield at 8 p.m. next Wednesday at Schollmaier Arena.

The TCU men's basketball players talk about what they are looking forward to in the 2018-2019 season.

Eyes, at least the coaching staff’s, will be on the defensive side of the ball early on.

“We’ve really been emphasizing defense,” senior forward JD Miller said. “That’s been a big emphasis.”

Rightfully so and the hope is Miller can become a standout defender. At 6-foot-8, 235 pounds, he has the size and length to bang down low with the best forwards in the country.

Miller is committed to improving his defense this season, although acknowledged it’s a challenge. Defense, of course, is less glamorous than putting up big numbers on the offensive end.

But Miller know someone has to do it, especially with the loss of Kenrich Williams.

“Defense is just a big challenge,” Miller said. “Defensive end, having to guard the best players, it’s just a big emphasis. This year we’re going to need somebody cause one of our best defenders, Kenrich Williams, is gone. Somebody has to fill his shoes at that end.

“It’s something you’ve got to want to do. It’s not something someone tells you that you need to do. It’s something I do want to do. I feel like it’ll help our team even much more.”

Miller, who played his high school ball at Seagoville, is coming off a season in which he started 24 of 33 games, averaging 7.9 points and 3.8 rebounds in 19.8 minutes a game.

All of those numbers are expected to increase this season. Coach Jamie Dixon made it clear that TCU needs more out of him for the season everybody hopes happens.

“We stuck with him,” said Dixon, referring to Miller being one of former coach Trent Johnson’s recruits.

“He’s one of my favorite guys now. He’s energy. He’s fun. He’s a great teammate. His teammates love him. But we need more out of him, especially on the defensive end.”

Miller understands that and has been spending a great deal of time watching Williams’ film. He knows if he wants to have a career at the next level, improving his defense will only help.

As Dixon said, “Every kid wants to be the leading scorer. He wants to be a guy who plays on the perimeter and shoot 3s. But he’s built to be a great defender.

“We need him to be a … he’s going to be a great defender for us, a great rebounder. I told him, ‘I don’t know if you want to be this guy, but if you want us to be the best team we can be that’s what you can be really good at. You should want to be the best defender in the league. Physically, you’re built that way.”

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