The Big Mac Blog

The real legacy of a pair of TCU basketball players

And the biggest lie our parents’ teach: Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. A stick or a stone seldom reaches the heart whereas words routinely do.

Nothing cuts quite like a few carefully, or hastily, assembled words.

It’s the job of any commentator to offer an honest opinion, often with words that slice better than a grater. Being a commentator can be fun, but not always, especially when you land a few swipes.

When TCU guard Brandon Parrish sat at the podium addressing what it was like to defeat Kansas in the Big 12 tournament in March, I officially felt like a piece of ... that.

“I’d read articles that said me and (forward) Karviar Shepherd were never going to be good enough to win in the Big 12,” Parrish said.

Here is a kid, fighting back tears, celebrating the biggest win of his college life: An 85-82 victory against No. 1 Kansas in the Big 12 tournament on March 9; in this moment he’s thinking about something I’m only about 99 percent sure I wrote.

Pretty sure he was referencing this masterpiece Feb. 6, 2016, after his Horned Frogs lost to Kansas in Fort Worth.

This is what I wrote: “(Coach Trent) Johnson said when he arrived in Fort Worth that in college basketball it just takes a couple of guys to make a difference. He’s right. He also has not found those two guys.

“The indictment is not Johnson’s 48-71 record at TCU but the progress of those he has recruited since he arrived, most notably juniors Brandon Parrish and Karviar Shepherd.

“Shepherd was the jewel of Johnson’s first recruiting class, a player offered a scholarship by Kansas, but he did not start Saturday against Kansas. He’s decent role player on a good team, and an overmatched player on a bad team.”

These are three paragraphs I’d like to have back. College players don’t deserve that type of biting criticism, and being “right” is subjective and irrelevant. These guys aren’t pros.

To both young men I can only say thank you for being such good people, and stewards for their school, their sport and their community. They both left a lasting impression on a program, a school, and a bunch of kids.

This is the local legacy of Brandon Parrish and Karviar Shepherd.

Over the Father’s Day weekend, I signed up for the Jamie Dixon basketball camp for fathers/sons (and daughters). I brought my 8-year-old daughter to participate in a field that included 26 kids, two of whom were girls.

The players were camp counselors, including Parrish and Shepherd.

No, this is not a paid-for endorsement of a Jamie Dixon basketball camp; it’s more of a reminder to myself and many others who forget that in the world of million-dollar high-priced college sports, the athletes are kids. And most kids are usually decent, especially to the younger ones.

In the final stages of the camp, there was a dunk contest for the campers. Players/counselors were to select eight willing participants among the 15 or so who raised their hands to participate.

“I gotta go with my girl Vivian,” Karviar said as he picked the one girl who wanted to dunk.

That was it for me. Karviar Shepherd should go into the TCU Hall of Fame immediately.

Shepherd, Parrish and all of the players acted as if it were Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins throwing down during the kids’ dunk contest. To those kids, they are MJ and ‘Nique.

Both Shepherd and Parrish recently graduated from TCU and plan to try to play in Europe before finishing their basketball careers. They left the TCU basketball program in a state it’s never been — with an NIT title, a win over the No. 1 team in the nation, healthy, improving, full of optimism with a bunch of new fans they created by taking the time to get down to their level and hoop it up.

What they did left a permanent mark on a school, a community and more than a few hearts.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof