The fourth year for Trent Johnson at TCU was unlike any in his career, he said after the Horned Frogs’ season ended Thursday night.
“This is new territory for me,” he said. “I’ve never been part of a program where going into Year 4, you took some steps backward.”
TCU was six games worse than last season, finishing 12-21 after an 86-66 loss to West Virginia in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament.
The team again won a first-round game at the event, but finished last in the league standings, went winless on the road in the league and posted the worst or nearly the worst shooting, rebounding and assist numbers in the league.
All momentum from last year’s 18-15 record, Johnson’s first winning season at TCU, appears gone.
TCU was last or next-to-last in the Big 12 in scoring, shooting percentage, assists, assist-to-turnover ratio and 3-pointers.
“We’ve taken a step backward, because it’s all based off wins and losses,” Johnson said after the regular-season finale against Oklahoma. “I’m disappointed, because we made so much progress last year.”
TCU began the season with a largely inexperienced roster. Only four players had started a Division I game, and one — leading returning rebounder Kenrich Williams — was already scheduled to miss the season recovering from knee surgery.
The newcomers included two junior college transfers, both off of one year in junior college, and two freshmen out of high school.
Compounding problems, veteran Chris Washburn missed the first 11 games with a hand injury. Three other players missed time with injury, and two did not finish the season because of injury.
Additionally, starting guard Malique Trent missed three conference games in January.
Only Brandon Parrish, Vladimir Brodziansky and JD Miller were available for every game. Only Parrish started every game.
That was no recipe for success in the toughest RPI league in the country, and discouragement showed at times.
I just wish we would have fought harder in the middle and beginning of the season as we did at the end. I wish we all would have had a better understanding, all been on the same page.
TCU guard Chauncey Collins
“I just wish we would have fought harder in the middle and beginning of the season as we did at the end,” sophomore guard Chauncey Collins said. “I wish we all would have had a better understanding, all been on the same page. But for the most part, I am satisfied with our fight toward the end of the season and looking forward to next year.”
Johnson could see the effects of the inexperience all season.
“Going into the year, our Achilles’ heel and our concern as a staff and as players was our mental toughness, our ability to rebound, our ability to defend and our ability to take care of it,” Johnson said.
“And that’s exactly what happened against good teams. We played well versus certain teams during the course of the year. I thought we competed pretty well down the stretch here. Moving forward, though, we really need to get a good understanding of how hard it is and how competitive we need to be.”
6Highest ranking in any statistical category in the Big 12 this season for TCU. The Frogs averaged 6.4 steals per game, led by league leader Malique Trent’s 2.1
There were highlights.
True freshman Miller led the team in rebounding five times and in scoring two times, despite starting only three games. Collins averaged 14 points against Top 25 league teams and scored 20 or more three times, including 29 at Texas Tech. Trent had a 25-point game against Baylor and led the Big 12 in steals.
Brodziansky had a season-high 12 rebounds at Kansas and shot 51.9 percent in averaging 9.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks. And Parrish went from a career 33.5 percent 3-point shooter to 41.5 percent this season.
Johnson called it a “good, young nucleus” and acknowledged improvement. But he said consistency was the main problem.
“The things that we can control, we didn’t do a very good job of on a consistent basis, and that’s unforced turnovers, one,” Johnson said. “Two, shooting the basketball with confidence when you’re open, and obviously your effort — maximum effort of blocking out, a fundamental thing, and putting a body on people. Again, that responsibility lies on me to get them to understand that and teach. And with young guys, sometimes it takes longer.
“But there have been some improvements. These guys have gained a lot of experience, and we’ll continue to grind away.”