The TCU basketball team takes pictures with fans after its scrimmage. Photo by Carolina Olivares

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TCU basketball opened its Schollmaier Arena doors a week early Friday to host a showcase that doubled as another stepping stone in the elevation Horned Frog basketball.

In Jamie Dixon’s second season as coach, he put his team on display a week before the first game against Louisiana Monroe with with a free scrimmage, three-point shootout, a dunk contest, and the chance for a student to sink a half-court shot and win $1,000 all with the comfort of free pizza for students.  Jamie Dixon bobbleheads were passed out, and the first 1,000 students received a Frog Army t-shirt. This program is starting to walk the walk of a basketball school.

“It’s a start, we’re headed in the right direction, and there’s a lot of excitement about the program and the team this year,” TCU head coach Jamie Dixon said.
It’s another step in the right direction for a program that hasn’t reached the Big Dance in two decades. Yet, Schollmaier Arena was abuzz the entire from the scrimmage all the though the half-court shooting contest at the end of the night.

Jaylen Fisher (0) and Desmond Bane (1) lead the Purple out onto the court. Photo by Carolina Olivares

Students have begun to feel the difference.

“I’m from Indiana, which is known as a basketball state, and when I applied to TCU, everyone knew it wasn’t good at basketball,” sophomore political science major Patrick Spencer said. “Within the span of a year, it’s a completely different vibe, and we’re good enough to have events like this.”
Students enjoy the TCU basketball festivities. Photo by Carolina Olivares
 In a Purple vs. White scrimmage, redshirt freshman forward Kouat Noi led the Purple team to a 60-44 victory on 7-of-9 shooting from the field. Purple shot 74.2 percent from the field and was 9-of-13 from 3-point range. Freshman RJ Nembhard had 13 points and senior forward Vladimir Brodziansky scored 11. Senior forward Kenrich Williams led the White team with 17 points and five rebounds. Junior Alex Robinson had eight points and a team-best five assists.
TCU forward Kouat Noi drive to the hoop during the Purple vs. White Scrimmage. Photo by Carolina Olivares

“It’s big to see the love and passion that these fans bring to surround the TCU basketball program with,” sophomore guard Desmond Bane said.

Bane took home the slam dunk contest over freshman guard RJ Nembhard, and senior guard Kenrich Williams won the three-point contest, but the biggest winners of the night were sophomore point guard Jaylen Fisher and sophomore Jack Spooner.

Desmond Bane participates in the dunk contest while wearing a Bane mask. Photo by Carolina Olivares

Fisher suffered a meniscus tear in his knee August 3 and was cleared to resume this week.

“Jaylen and I talked about it over the summer, and we dreamed of times like this, being able to play in front of all these fans and for him to be able to be healthy and return to play in something like this is big for him,” Bane said. “He played great.”

Spooner was one of three students who had the privilege to choose anyone off the TCU basketball roster to shoot a half-court in their place to win them 1,000 dollars.  He choose senior forward Austin Sottile, who averaged 0.5 points in 2.1 minutes per game after appearing in 12 contests last season. Sottile released a line-drive shoot that hit nothing but the bottom of the net, earning Spooner a check for $1,000.

Why did Spooner choose Sottile? A hometown connection.

“He’s the pride of St. Louis basketball,” Spooner said, a native of St. Louis himself. “I’m feeling awesome.”

The team celebrates after senior forward Austin Sottile drains a half-court shot to win a student $1,000. Photo by Carolina Olivares

The Horned Frogs have plenty to feel awesome about coming off a 24-15 season, winning the program’s first postseason championship, the NIT. With the return of their top six scorers, the Frogs were selected to finished third in the preseason Big 12 coaches poll their highest spot ever.

Now, the Horned Frogs have the expectations of a basketball school: NCAA Tournament

“We’re looking forward to big year and hopefully we can make a run and get into the NCAA Tournament,” Bane said.

TCU begins its season Nov. 10 with an 8 p.m. tipoff against ULM at Schollmaier Arena.