The first game in the Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena might not feel like a home game for TCU.
“It’s probably going to feel like a road game,” coach Trent Johnson said.
After a year and a half of playing off campus at the Fort Worth school district’s Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center, the Horned Frogs make their debut this week in their own arena, the former Daniel-Meyer Coliseum, remade as part of a $72 million project to spruce up the court, add seating, modernize the concourses, install locker rooms and add a hall of fame.
The Frogs (5-4) open a men’s and women’s doubleheader with a 1 p.m. tip-off on Sunday against Abilene Christian.
“My kids are looking forward to it,” Johnson said during the Big 12 coaches’ weekly conference call with reporters. “We’re going to have to get adjusted to playing at home, if that makes sense.”
TCU was 14-8 in 22 games at Wilkerson-Greines, including 3-6 in Big 12 games. The team had been expected to need Wilkerson-Greines for only one season, but when the renovations weren’t complete in time for the season opener on Nov. 13, TCU played an extra four games at Wilkerson-Greines and went 2-2.
The Horned Frogs also used the University Recreation Center for three games — one last season, two this season — and went 3-0.
In its temporary homes TCU was 17-8. But Sunday marks a chance to establish a new home-court advantage.
“The only advantage I ever had is to play a good brand of basketball, take care of the ball, rebound, et cetera — so you know, we’ve got a long way to go in that regard,” Johnson said. “But this is going to be nice for the kids to be back on campus. My guys have been really, really good. They haven’t complained. Bottom line, it’s our responsibility to compete at a high level. For it to be a home-court advantage for us, we’ve got to start playing good basketball and beating good teams.”
TCU gets only two chances to test out its new court before the Big 12 schedule begins. Delaware State visits on Dec. 28, then the league schedule begins for the Frogs with a game at Oklahoma State on Jan. 2.
West Virginia, on Jan. 4, will be the first Big 12 opponent in Schollmaier Arena.
Junior forward Chris Washburn remains on track to return this month from a broken thumb, but Johnson continues to look for players to assert themselves in his absence.
“Chris is one of our returning leading scorers and one of our top defensive players, but the bottom line is, there are plenty of guys who have had opportunities to step up and make plays versus good teams,” Johnson said. “So Chris is a focal point of what we do, but I always concern myself with who’s out there. Hopefully he’ll be back in the next two to three weeks. But we’ll see.”
Washburn has not played this year because of the thumb injury. He averaged 7.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 1.4 steals and 1.3 assists last season as a sophomore.
Johnson said TCU quickly forgot about its 25-point loss at Washington last week.
“By the next practice,” he said.
The Frogs trailed by as much as 42 points in the second half of the 92-67 loss.
“One of those games we didn’t compete very well,” he said.
Johnson said the team had a good practice Sunday and is “trying to get ourselves back to where we’re playing good basketball” while trying to balance end-of-semester responsibilities.
“They’re all in the middle of finals. That sort of takes its toll on them mentally,” Johnson said. “But there are only two things they should be concentrating on right now — that’s taking finals and playing better basketball.”
Game time set
TCU’s conference opener at Oklahoma State on Jan. 2 has been given a 3 p.m. start time. The game will be broadcast on ESPNews.
The league and television were waiting to see what the football bowl lineup would look like that day.
The Alamo Bowl pitting TCU and Oregon is scheduled to kick off at 5:45 p.m., so TCU fans who want to watch both games won’t have a conflict.