Men’s basketball preview: TCU looking for bounce-back season

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    After finishing last in the Big 12, the men’s basketball team is ready to turn things around.

    Head coach Trent Johnson said he is excited to put last year in the past, and is thrilled to have a roster that is not plagued by injuries.

    “Why am I so happy? Why am I so excited?” Johnson asked during the 2014 Big 12 Men’s Basketball Media Day in Kansas City. “Number one is, for the first time since I’ve been at TCU, we’ve had nine practices and I have a full compliment of players – 13 guys on scholarship and three walk-ons, and we’re healthy.”

    After going 2-16 and 0-18 in Big 12 play in his first two seasons with TCU, the Horned Frogs’ coach is making sure his players forget about those seasons.

    “He doesn’t want us talking about it at all,” point guard Kyan Anderson said in his interview on media day.

    Anderson, a senior, said he understands the importance of staying focused on this season, but he doesn’t want to completely forget about the team’s struggles.

    “In my opinion, you have to know what you went through, to break through the next year,” Anderson said. “I remind my guys every day what we went through, that they don’t want to go through that again. It made me a tougher person to go through adversity like that. I wouldn’t want that on some of the younger guys we have on this squad.”

    In addition to having a fully healthy roster, the team is optimistic with the arrival of two transfers in Trey Zeigler and Chris Washburn.

    Zeigler, a senior guard who sat out last season because of the NCAA’s transfer eligibility rules, said he has already seen an improvement in the team.

    “We’ve got 15 guys every day now,” Zeigler said. “It’s very competitive in practice. The talent level is better. When it’s that competitive, you’ve got to bring it or you’re going to be in trouble. That’s the best part of practice right now.”

    The former Pittsburgh product is also ready to move on from last season.

    “We don’t talk about last year,” Zeigler said. “It’s behind us. For us, we see the talent. We see what we can do. We don’t know how many people believe in it. We know we believe in it in our locker room. So we’re excited about it.”

    The Frogs will also rely on Chris Washburn, a sophomore transfer from the University of Texas-El Paso.

    Coach Johnson feels these newly-eligible transfers will make an immediate impact for the Frogs this year.

    “Obviously, we’ve improved from an athletic standpoint,” Johnson said at his press conference. “Some of the guys we had sitting out, some of the guys we signed. So our practices are much more competitive. We’re a lot better. Our skill level is a lot better. We have the opportunity to compete at a high level.”

    Ziegler and Washburn won’t be the only new faces to see playing time this year. The Frogs will also look for help from incoming freshmen.

    Link Kabadyundi, a 7-foot-1 center from Canada, is ready to develop under Johnson.

    “He is still working on his coordination, but you will see him down the court faster than you’d think he would,” Johnson said in an interview. “He’s going to have a tough time against players with athletic moves down low, but he is eager to learn.”

    Chauncey Collins, a 3-star point guard from Oklahoma City, is another freshman that will develop under Johnson.

    “He’s learning to play more without the ball,” Johnson said. “He’s coming from a place where he could shoot all the time.”

    The Frogs won’t just benefit from new additions. Some players are back from major injuries.

    Amric Fields, a senior forward, is ready to go after missing 13 games last season with knee trouble.

    “It’s hard to reach your full potential when you’re missing that much time,” Johnson said.

    Fields, who averaged 13.1 points and 6.1 rebounds in 18 games last year, is hoping to be ready for the season opener next week.

    Junior forward Devonta Abron will also be back on the court this year. Abron missed all of last season with a torn Achilles tendon.

    “We’re fully healthy now,” Johnson said. “Now I feel like we get to go into fights with bullets instead of BBs.”

    Kyan Anderson, who averaged 17 points a game and had 139 assists last season, is expected to benefit from this healthier lineup.

    “Kyan, he has better players around him,” Johnson said. “What he did last year, for a team that was decimated by injuries, was pretty impressive because he always kept playing and kept competing.”

    The Horned Frogs also hope to build off sophomores Kaviar Shepherd and Brandon Parrish.

    Shepherd, a 6-10 center, started 30 games as a freshman while average 9.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.

    Parrish, the first player to commit to TCU head coach Trent Johnson back in 2012, also started 30 games for the Frogs last season and averaged 8 points per contest.

    Johnson says that this revamped basketball team has a great chance to compete this season.

    “We just talk about the opportunity we have in front of us, at this level of play, in this league to be good,” Johnson said.

    This upgraded team won’t play at their home court this season because of a major renovation.

    Instead of hosting games at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum, the Frogs will play at Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center.

    Johnson said that the change won’t matter.

    “The rim is still 10 feet. This isn’t a team that worries about that,” Johnson said on Rivals.com. “Bottom line is we need to win games, no matter where they are.”

    The Horned Frogs begin their season at Wilkerson-Greines on Nov. 14 against Prairie View A&M.