Big 12 Summer Update: TCU Horned FrogsPosted by dnspewak on July 30th, 2012
In an effort to remind you that college basketball does in fact exist during the summer, Big 12 microsite writers Danny Spewak (@dspewak) and Jeremy Pfingsten (@jeremylp21) will roll out three summer updates per week during the next month. The goal is to compile every bit of news and information from the summer months for each team and package it into neat, easy-to-read capsules for your convenience. Next on the list — an update on TCU.
TCU Horned Frogs
2011-12 record: 18-15 overall 7-7 Mountain West
All summer long, TCU has heard the same party line from the rest of the Big 12: You can’t compete in this conference. Not after losing your top two scorers. Not with little to no basketball tradition and a 7,000 seat arena still in the preliminary stages of a much-needed renovation. Trent Johnson faces a difficult task in his first season with the Horned Frogs, but amidst all the criticism and condescending tones from fellow Big 12 contingents, he has nothing to lose in 2012-13. The roster looks bleak, sure. But before Johnson faded a bit into obscurity at middling LSU, he had built a reputation as a terrific basketball coach at Nevada and Stanford. After some initial success in Baton Rouge, he immediately went into rebuilding mode and never quite recovered. So it’s easy to forget he coached Robin and Brook Lopez at Stanford, and it’s easy to forget he reached the Sweet Sixteen at Nevada and recruited standout Nick Fazekas. This man can coach, and he’ll spend the summer tyring to prove that to his new team.
Summer Orientation: So Hank Thorns and J.R. Cadot are gone after starting every game in the backcourt a year ago and leading the team in scoring by a wide margin. Big deal. Seriously, though. It is. Johnson will need overall development from his cast of returning players (more on them later), but he’ll also rely a little heavier on his newcomers. Clyde Smith and Charles Hill, a pair of 6’2’’ freshmen guards, will slide right into the roster in the backcourt. Smith, more of a scorer than a distributor, can shoot the heck out of the ball from mid-range and beyond the arc. Hill is more of a defensive stopper, the kind of clichéd, high-IQ player with an ability to play both guard spots down the road. Aaron Durley, a late signee by Johnson, certainly looks the part of a Big 12 center at 6’10’’. He originally committed to Marquette, but as a Texas native, he wanted to stay closer to home. If you watch the Little League World Series – and, let’s be honest, who doesn’t? — you may remember Durley from 2005 when his fellow Little Leaguers marveled at his size. This guy’s so famous already, he has an extremely detailed Wikipedia page. Luckily for TCU fans, Durley chose to pursue basketball instead. He’s known for his jump hook, and that should work well in combination with his height against Big 12 competition. He’s not a dominant rebounder and needs to add weight, but he can run the floor very well and is said to have great hands.
The wild card is here Devonta Abron. The 6’8’’, 250-pound transfer from Arkansas wants to play right away— TCU is seeking an NCAA waiver to forgo his redshirt season as a transfer. Abron says he’s transferring to TCU to move closer to his daughter, but at this stage, his status is unknown. He’s still in the appeals process, and knowing the NCAA, he’ll probably have graduated by the time we hear a decision (Kidding. Kind of.). He’s Texas born and bred, and he returns home after playing a reserve role for the Razorbacks.
Looking Good: There’s no telling how Garlon Green has looked this summer, since it’s difficult to find practice reports on the Horned Frogs at the moment. He better be “Looking Good,” though, because he’s vital to this team. The top returning scorer from 2011-12, Green averaged about 10 points per game and has an interesting skill set. He has good size as a wing and above-the-rim athleticism, but he’s never put together a consistent season as a top scoring option in his three years at TCU. When this team won, though, it won partly because of him. Green scored in double figures in victories over Colorado State, UNLV and New Mexico a year ago, helping the Horned Frogs salvage respectability in the Mountain West. He’ll need to grow into a leadership role this year for Johnson, and he’ll need to shoot more like he did as a sophomore (48% from three) and less like he did as a junior (33%).
If Green’s the most important player, Kyan Anderson is, without a doubt, the second most important player. The Mountain West Freshman of the Year in 2011-12 grabbed a starting role midway through December last year and started every game in conference play. He’s a true point guard who will now become the primary lead guard with Thorns’ graduation. Let’s blow your mind here a little bit: In those same wins over Colorado State, UNLV and New Mexico, Anderson averaged 6.3 assists per game against two turnovers per game. So it’s settled. Garlon Green and Kyan Anderson need to play well for this team to succeed in Year One of the Big 12.
Outside of the Big Two, if you will, Johnson will use the summer to sort out the rest of his rotation. Senior Nate Butler, who lost his starting job during non-conference play a year ago, could see his minutes spike at the off-guard spot with the loss of Thorns and Cadot. Former coach Jim Christian used Connell Crossland, Amric Fields and Adrick McKinney in much the same way at the forward position a year ago. All averaged between 11 and 21 minutes per game and started at least eight games. They’re all back, and only Aaron Durley (and possibly Devonta Abron) is joining the mix. So Johnson has the luxury of lots of bodies up front.
Roadblocks: The unknowns. Will Abron get eligibility? Can Green be the go-to man? Will Anderson continue to grow? Questions, questions, questions. We’re hearing them now, and we’ll hear them all the way until the opening tip of the 2012-13 season. Other than that, it’s been mostly quiet for TCU off the court, besides the $5 million settlement with the Big East. The roadblocks with this program cannot be answered until the games are played.
State of the Program: Talk about a culture change. Trent Johnson isn’t trying to revitalize anything at TCU. He’s trying to start something. It’s encouraging to hear the athletic department talk about its commitment to basketball from a financial standpoint, but it is impossible for Johnson to create a winning tradition in just one season. This situation calls for a long-term project, so he’ll need to approach this job with baby steps. TCU’s encouraging .500 finish in the Mountain West a year ago is actually not a terrible building block for this program. Now, with the Big 12 looming, this team will need an even better effort to kick things off in a new league.