The gods, both old and new, continue to torture TCU fans. Another year in the Big 12 cellar was only made worse with Karviar Shepherd's injury serving as salt in the wound for TCU this year. Shepherd's injury leaves TCU with Seven scholarship players. David Fincher is rolling around somewhere because this version of Seven is a lot scarier.
But despite the shortcomings of TCU basketball since joining the Big 12, and really all time, let's heed the advice of a man named Harvey Dent. Dent once said, "the night is darkest just before the dawn." Dent then assured the citizens of Gotham that the dawn was coming. Can the same be said for Trent Johnson and TCU basketball?
In short, yes. Why? Karviar Shepherd. Let me explain...
In his first year at TCU, Karviar Shepherd has already made a mark on TCU basketball. First off, Shepherd, who attended Dallas' Prime Prep Academy, is the highest rated (basketball) prospect to ever sign with TCU. That in and of itself is a victory.
But despite being a top 100 prospect and a strong freshman start, Shepherd has gone relatively unnoticed. He ranks 5th in the Big 12 in rebounding with 7.6 per game, which is even higher than (one of) Kansas' crown jewels and likely number-one pick, Joel Embiid.
But Shep's not Joel Embiid and that's just fine. Embiid reminds me of Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, a man made in a lab and bred from birth to do one thing..."break you". Shepherd suffers from the Big 12's vast talent pool; being in a conference with potentially three top-five draft picks and four teams in the Top 25, it's easy to get lost in the shuffle.
But not being Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, or Marcus Smart isn't to say Shepherd won't have a future in the NBA. You have to remember Shep's an 18 year-old-kid and like Embiid's partner in crime, Andrew Wiggins, he's had some freshman jitters. These jitters are most evident when looking at his 42% shooting percentage, less than stellar for a Center. Most recently, watching the Tech and Kansas games, Shep missed the kind of shots that are generally reserved for students attempting to win free pizza between timeouts.
That being said, these jitters are not all on Shepherd. Injuries and a lack of depth have forced Karviar to have to step up without the benefit of rest that the other Big 12 centers are getting. In fact, TCU's the only team with two players who rank in the Top 10 in minutes played (in the conference)...those two being Shepherd and Kyan Anderson. This brings us back to why Shep's gone unnoticed. From a national standpoint, it's hard to make a 9-10 record sound interesting, especially when it's TCU. That's the double edge sword of being a non-t-shirt fan school.
I didn't come up with this, but a buddy of mine compared Shepherd to Chicago Bulls Center, Taj Gibson, and the more I think about this, the more I like it. In addition to being identical physically, Gibson also made a name for himself with superior defending and blocking skills. The former USC star, like Shep, was also the seventh ranked high school center to come out of his class. In high school, Shepherd was praised for having the strongest elbows in the country. His physicality, resilience and toughness have definitely translated to the next level.
Shepherd's NBA potential opens up many doors for TCU. As I said a couple of weeks ago, playing at TCU gives a student-athlete the unique opportunity of not only playing in what's consistently one of the best conferences, but also in a large market. But besides his talent and leadership, what Shepherd brings most is hope. Hope that we may someday have a team of pure talents like him and we're catapulted into a world of basketball glory unlike anything we've ever seen in Fort Worth.
Let's just get to a tournament first.
Really, this all falls under an umbrella of the "Trent Johnson" effect. In only his second year as head coach, we have yet to see a fully loaded Johnson-team. But we've also seen the kinds of talent he can bring to the Fort. What we have seen is the likes of Shepherd and Brandon Parrish.
But what does Trent Johnson, the Big 12, and getting players like these mean for the basketball culture?
To put it in perspective, I once sat on a plane with a guy from New York for three hours. After getting off the plane, I noticed he had a TCU bag. I then proceeded to ask if we went to TCU. He said no, but that he worked there. So I asked what he taught.
It was Jim Christian.
If Trent Johnson, and players like Karviar and Brandon Parrish are indeed the future, then the future is very, very bright.