TCU coach Jamie Dixon never envisioned a day he’d use the phrase “gone viral.”
But there’s no other description for what’s happened with how he and his program let walk-on Owen Aschieris know he’d earned a scholarship for the spring semester.
TCU had a police officer interrupt a team meeting to talk with Aschieris and, a few seconds later, his teammates exploded with enthusiasm about the scholarship news. The video has garnered more than one million views on the TCU men’s basketball official Twitter account.
“As far as coaching one of my gratifying and enjoyable moments, you can talk about championships or winning games or this, but the instances where we’ve been able to give a scholarship to a kid that has worked his tail off and given so much for the program are some of the most memorable I’ve ever had,” Dixon said after TCU’s 98-67 victory over West Virginia on Tuesday.
“That was special, just to do it. I guess it’s taken off and gone viral; I’d swear I’d never use that phrase. It worked out pretty good and it was good to see him and everybody enjoy it.”
Aschieris received a nice ovation when he entered Tuesday’s game, and scored the first points of his collegiate career. Aschieris finished with four points, all free throws, and has now appeared in six games for the Frogs.
So where did Aschieris come from?
He had a solid high school career in San Diego, averaging 22 points and four assists as a senior at Santa Fe Chrisitan School. He came to TCU as a student and spent last season as a member of TCU women’s basketball practice team.
Aschieris caught the eye of women’s coach Raegan Pebley, who informed Dixon of him. In July, the TCU men’s team announced Aschieris would be joining as a walk-on. Fast forward a few months and Aschieris has proven worthy of a scholarship.
“It’s really hard to describe because so much work went into this,” Aschieris said. “It’s been a crazy journey going from high school and not being recruited to the women’s scout team, and then walking on. So many people behind me and to get this scholarship and talking right now, I’m going to need a few days to let my mind chill.”
Aschieris’ first called his mother to inform her of the news, and she started crying. Those tears of joy spread over the line to Aschieris.
It was a special moment for his family and, the next night, he was scoring the first points of his career in a Big 12 game. Of course, Aschieris can laugh now about the police officer letting him know, something basketball director of operations Thomas Montigel and assistant for student athlete development Ontario Lett set up.
At the time, it wasn’t a laughing matter.
“It freaked me out a little,” Aschieris said, smiling. “I was wracking my brain to think about what I might have done wrong in the past of my entire life. It was crazy.”
Well, he’s done everything right since joining the team.
Dixon had nothing but good things to say about Aschieris, going as far as saying TCU has just scratched the surface on his potential.
Aschieris may not develop into a standout player such as Alex Robinson or Desmond Bane, but he’s got game.
“We were surprised at how good he was,” Dixon said. “I don’t know that you’ve seen how good he is.”
His teammates know how good he is, too. Bane, on a night he scored a season-high 26 points, referenced how Aschieris pushes other players in the gym on a daily basis.
“He deserves it,” Bane said. “Over the summer, I thought I worked pretty hard. The moment he got on the team, he was pushing me to get in the gym, trying to get up a 1,000 makes this summer. I thought that this dude is crazy. I was trying to shoot with him, but my shoulder was getting stiff and locking up on me.
“I know Owen is in there early in the morning and late at night. With that kind of hard work and dedication, your dreams are always going to come true. For Owen, it’s a dream come true, and I’m happy for him.”
Aschieris and Bane had a lighthearted exchange after that. Aschieris joked that the goal was to shoot 1,000 shots a day, not necessarily “make” 1,000.
“Did you skip a few days? I did,” Bane said, chuckling.
“Maybe one,” Aschieris said, grinning.
At the end of the day, Aschieris’ scholarship served as a feel-good story for a team that has seen multiple players sustain season-ending injuries and/ or enter the NCAA transfer portal.
For Dixon, the walk-on players have a special place in his heart.
He rattled off a number of his walk-on players from previous teams who have gone on to do good things such as Marcus Bowman, who played for Dixon at Pitt and is now UNLV’s senior associate athletics director, chief financial officer, and Maurice Polen, who played for Dixon at Pitt and is now an FBI agent in Philadelphia.
“It’s really hard [to find a good walk-on],” Dixon said. “But if you can hire somebody, a walk-on who has committed and made it to the highest level, D-1, and was on the team for four years, I can guarantee that kid is going to be a success for life.”