For the first time in two decades, TCU Basketball opened their season Friday with the weight of expectation firmly on their shoulders. Anything less than March Madness will be falling short of their goals, but that’s just the beginning for the reigning NIT Champions in Jamie Dixon’s second season in Fort Worth.
The Frogs return their top six scores from a season ago, and all five starters. The team’s heartbeat, Kenrich Williams is back, and goes from being a glue guy to an NBA prospect, a player that you like having on your team to one opponents have to game plan against. Vladimir Brodziansky made himself into a household name last year, throwing up double doubles on the regular and becoming a one man swat team. Point guard Alex Robinson has stated that his goal is to break not just the single season assist record at TCU (234 by Tony Edmond), but the all-time one as well (575 by current TCU Assistant Coach Corey Santee). He had 228 in his first year of eligibility, and with the shooters he has around him, both are certainly in sight. But, don’t worry, Robinson will still take the open shot, according to Kenny Hustle:
Jaylen Fisher is on his way back from a knee injury suffered just prior to the team’s trip to Australia, and should be at or close to full strength by the time the season opens on November 10th against ULM. His backcourt mate, Desmond Bane, is also back, fresh off the experience of trying out for Team USA, and looking bigger and stronger than ever. Also on the bigger and stronger side is junior JD Miller, who now resembles Kenrich Williams in sheer size, but has maintained his quickness and shooting stroke.
Speaking of size, Frog fans should be really excited about forward Kouat Noi, who will make his debut in uniform this fall. The Australian redshirted last season, but is a guy that teammates and coaches universally laud. He is in the mold of Kenny Hustle - he doesn’t take plays off on either end of the floor, can really score the basketball, and will be a defensive presence on the floor and the boards for the Frogs this season. He has made a lot of fans in the locker room already, including one of the most important - his front court mate Kenny Hustle, who had high praise for the youngster, calling him ‘the real deal’:
Kouat himself is just ready to be off the bench and on the floor helping his team, bringing his long wingspan, speed, and rebounding ability to the squad. He’s a guy that can really run the floor at the forward position, and should give opposing defenses fits. He’s got such a unique combination of size and speed - a quicker Kenny Hustle that should develop into a really dangerous scorer from all over the floor. But for now, he’s just ready to get after it:
Joining Noi on the newcomer list are a pair of transfers - guard Shawn Olden and center Ahmed Hamdy - the former who can shoot the rock and handle the basketball (and will play a little PG until Fish is back on the floor) - and the latter who fills the Karviar Shepherd role: a big, strong post presence who can bang, rebound, and score a little. Freshman guard RJ Nembhard is a special scorer, and could be a spark plug off the bench once his defense improves. I really like this kid’s game - he is as smooth as can be, gets to the rim with ease, and can create his own shot. Kevin Samuel is listed as a freshman, but you can’t convince me that he’s not 33 years old. I mean, look at this dude:
It’s a well-rounded and versatile lineup, one that Jamie Dixon can mix and match based on the opponent. The team can play big with Samuel and Hamdy, or go small with guys like Hustle and Miller at center. Vlad continues to work on his shot, and should be even more effective stretching the floor with the three ball. And, for the first time in what feels like forever, TCU has shooters all over the floor and on the bench, making them a much more fluid and dangerous offense. Because of that, the expectations are much higher in Fort Worth - but the players welcome the challenge.
Also aware of the heightened expectations is Coach Dixon, who was happy to see his team reign in New York, but is far from satisfied. The Frogs don’t just want to make the NCAA Tournament, they want to win the Big 12 Conference - something that hasn’t been done by a team not named Kansas since 2005. His team knows that well, including Kenny Hustle, who is making sure the young guys understand that it’s not where you start, but where you finish:
After losing exceptional leaders like Brandon Parrish and Karviar Shepherd, one of the biggest questions facing the program is who the leaders are. While seniors Vladimir Brodziansky and Kenrich Williams will certainly fill the veteran void, young guys like Desmond Bane and transfer Shawn Olden clearly stand out for their vocal leadership and the respect they have from their teammates. Coach Dixon knows he has the magic mix of newcomers and those savvy veterans, but that it won’t matter if they can’t build on last year’s success early.
The Frogs open their season on November 10th against the University of Louisiana, Monroe. They won’t play a true road game in the preseason, but will participate in two neutral site tournaments - the Emerald Coast Classic in Niceville, FL (November 24th-25th) and the Basketball Hall of Fame Classic in Los Angeles (December 8th). They open Big 12 Conference play on December 30th against Oklahoma in Fort Worth.
You can view the full interviews on our Frogs O War Youtube Channel, where Jamie Dixon, Kenrich Williams, Kouat Noi, and Desmond Bane talked the off-season, Australia, season expectations, individual improvement, Jaylen Fisher’s health, the FBI and the NCAA, and much more.
Season tickets go on sale today and will be available in very limited quantities. You’re going to want to be in the Scholly this season, I guarantee it.