College basketball season is less than three weeks away.
TCU opens its season against Southwestern University on Nov. 7 at Schollmaier Arena.
In the meantime, the Frogs have Big 12 media days in Kansas City on Wednesday, ‘Schollmaier Live’ on Friday featuring “Diesel” aka Shaquille O’Neal and a ‘secret’ scrimmage against Washington on Sunday in Fort Worth.
Outside expectations aren’t overly high for TCU as it’s picked to finish 10th in the 10-team Big 12. The Frogs return only two significant pieces in leading scorer Desmond Bane and big man Kevin Samuel from an NIT semifinals team.
Coach Jamie Dixon touched on a variety of topics during a media availability last week.
What’s the mood going into the season? “I like where we’re at. We’re healthy, everybody’s been out there and I feel good about the development of our depth as we go forward here. I’m encouraged by our improvements. I’m encouraged by our willingness to sacrifice to get better, to listen. We’re getting great leadership from Desmond and Kevin. Those are the two most experienced guys and we’re certainly getting great leadership from them. That gives me great hope for the future, development of our guys this season.”
How have Desmond and Kevin developed as leaders? “It changes every year. You’ve got new guys generally. Most of the time it’s going to be seniors. Kevin’s been here three years and with a newer group, probably the process has sped up a little bit for certain guys. I think we’re built to have great success and great growth because of Desmond, one, cause there’s no question he’s the leader. But Kevin’s doing a lot of things too and the guys respect him, believe in him, and that’s important that they do the right things on and off the floor. They get it. They work hard. They’re tough. They’re unselfish. And they’re good players. You’re talking about one of the leading scorers in the Big 12 and the leading rebounder in the Big 12 returning. It’s a good starting point as far as talent, but then as far as the ability to do it, to lead, the character to do it, we’re in a good spot. It’s just the way it is. Going forward, it’s generally seniors and Desmond has filled that role.”
How’s the chemistry with so many new faces this season? “Everybody’s got new faces now, so it’s going to be talked about. I think you’re going to be doing it every year. We did it last year but things change. We had five guys with season-ending injuries last year, so that changes things. How do we handle a little adversity? We haven’t hit that adversity yet per se. We try to create some situations in practice whether it be conditioning things we do, some demands we make.
“We started practice on Sept. 26. It used to be Oct. 15. All of these things have made it possible. I don’t know that they made these rules cause kids are going to leave and transfer and go to the NBA, but everything is made for constant movement with rosters now. But they’ve given us more time on the back end. It wasn’t done because of that, but it gives us time and I don’t think it’s a real issue as far as bringing in big groups of guys cause you have way more time and an earlier start date to do that. We had all of our guys here in June. We’ve been practicing since then.”
How’s the foundation of the program after three years, coming off the NIT season? “Just have to adapt. You don’t want to have five season-ending injuries. I wouldn’t put that one on the playbook, but it is what it is. We dealt with it. We dealt pretty good with it, better than anybody else would’ve handled it. It’s where we’re at. Hopefully that doesn’t happen again, I don’t believe it will, probably never will. I like the talent that we have, I think we have some good young players.
“Our league is so wide-open, but you know when I say it’s wide-open, it’s going to be a good wide-open cause it’s all going to be good teams. It’s all going to be teams that are going through the same thing. It’s just college basketball the way it is now. It is what it is, the rules have been made for movement and that’s what we are and that’s what we are embracing.”
Do you play ‘what if’ during the offseason if y’all didn’t have the injuries/ transfers last season? “There was some of that. We talked to the guys that have gone down to lower levels, but more so to figure out how it happened and why did it occur, just to help them out with whatever it may be down the road. I guess I don’t spend a lot of time on it and certainly don’t want to be in that position again. But certainly understand why they wanted to move because you miss all that time, you fall behind. That’s certainly the case and bring in new guys that haven’t had injuries that are good players and have been healthy and got better their senior year in high school or played and had good years. Whatever it may be. Some guys may have sat out and were healthy, but were able to practice, were able to develop, were able to get better. Our guys weren’t. They didn’t practice. They weren’t able to, unique and different situations.”
Finally, any notable differences so far with the longer 3-point line? “It seems like some of our shooting things are down a little bit, but they’re usually down early in the year. The thing that we’ve found, we’re stepping out of bounds in the corner. You can’t step back in the corner. It’s really close to the NBA line. We had three turnovers the other day of stepping out of bounds on the sidelines. We’re working on that, doing that, so we did shooting drills. You can’t do what you normally do.”