Two and a half years into his TCU career, with more losses than victories, Karviar Shepherd remains sure of the plan.
Not only his plan, but that of coach Trent Johnson, who made Shepherd the centerpiece of his first recruiting class as TCU entered the Big 12.
“The results will come,” Shepherd said Wednesday night after one of the Horned Frogs’ worst losses of the season, 82-54 at Baylor. “I’m confident in my coaches and confident in my team. You don’t really worry about the results if you’re working hard and doing the things Coach wants us to do. The results will come.”
Johnson is in his fourth year at TCU, now 47-65 with the Horned Frogs. He inherited a bottom-rung program in a lesser conference than the Big 12. Since the start, his teams have been beset by injuries. This year, he is playing without his best all-around player, Kenrich Williams, who is out for the season recovering from a knee injury. His second-best player, Chris Washburn, returned only five games ago after missing the first 11 games with a hand injury.
Wednesday, the Horned Frogs played without their second-leading scorer, Malique Trent, who was unavailable because of a violation of team rules.
But there is no hard-luck discount in the standings. TCU is one of five teams tied for last in the Big 12 with a 1-3 conference record. And the Frogs’ next three games are at Kansas, home against Texas Tech and Iowa State — teams that are a combined 37-10.
Shepherd knows all of this. He knows, as one of the top 10-rated recuits in Texas out of high school in 2013, that he was expected to help turn it around by now.
Setbacks like Wednesday night at Baylor, on the heels of an upset of Texas in the game before, have not rattled him.
“I take everything as a learning experience,” he said. “Nothing’s really a step back. You try to avoid that. You try to keep straight, keep pushing through whatever your tough time is. Tonight is our tough time because we lost. But we’re going to get back in the gym and work hard and do the best we can to get a win.”
Shepherd averaged 6.1 points as a freshman. Last year, it was 9.1. This year, he’s again at 9.1. He has missed only one start in 79 games at TCU. As a freshman, he played the second-most minutes on the team.
But he has led TCU in scoring only seven times in his career. Wednesday night against Baylor was the second time this season. The 6-foot-10 junior has a soft touch on a mid-range jumper and possesses 3-point range. But consistency has been fleeting — in his past seven games, Shepherd has scored 13, 5, 18, 0, 15, 2 and 13 points.
Johnson isn’t surprised. He knows what his players are capable of, but he said they don’t produce it from game to game.
“Bottom line is, based off being competitive and winning, all of them aren’t consistent with their approach and their competitiveness on a daily basis,” he said.
For now, Shepherd is the public face of the program. He is the player usually made available to reporters after a game. At a speech to Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce members on Wednesday at Schollmaier Arena — renovated as part of an $80 million investment in basketball by TCU — Johnson praised Shepherd for having the courage to help TCU begin a new era.
Shepherd does not sound like his courage today is any less.
“I always have confidence in my team,” he said. “They’re my team, they’re my family. I always have confidence in my family. I believe that every day, we’re going to come out and do the best we can. We had a bad night. But we’ve got to come back in practice tomorrow and work hard — work harder than we did before. Because that’s the only way we’re going to get better.”
TCU men at No. 1 Kansas
1 p.m. Saturday, ESPN
Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence, Kan.
Records: TCU is 9-7, 1-3 Big 12; Kansas is 14-2, 3-1