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Vlad, Kenny Hustle Leave Lasting Mark on TCU Basketball

The two seniors accomplished more in three years at TCU than the program had in 20.

TCU Basketball Senior Night, February 27, 2018
TCU Basketball Senior Night, February 27, 2018
Melissa Triebwasser

The journey has been long for Kenrich Williams and Vladimir Brodziansky - two players who came to TCU because, well, frankly, they had no where else to go - and leave having left their stamp on the program in a way that no one has done since their head coach, Jamie Dixon.

These two players - along with four others (Ahmed Hamdy, Dalton Dry, Austin Sottile, and Clayton Crawford) - have played their final game on their home floor in Fort Worth. For two young men who came to TCU when it was a dumpster fire of a program, overcoming injuries, overcoming playing in a high school gym, overcoming perception of themselves and their program, taking TCU to March Madness has to be a special kind of satisfaction. Kenrich Williams made it clear that it is.

“This is what I set my goals for, coming to TCU, to go to the Tournament. I didn’t set any personal goals, the only goal I had was to make the Tournament and turn this program around. To be able to do that? It means a lot to me.”

There are plenty of things to appreciate about these two players, guys who came with little fan fare and developed themselves into legitimate stars - all conference players and NBA prospects. Williams - who earned the moniker Kenny Hustle for his willingness to rebound, defend, dive for loss balls, and do all the little things coaches and fans love - matriculated to Fort Worth from New Mexico Junior College after graduating from Waco’s University High. Williams didn’t have a single Division I offer after graduating, despite averaging 14.6 points and 9.9 rebounds his senior year and being named the district’s Defensive Player of the Year. So, he chose to go the juco route, heading west to NMSU where he was an all-conference player averaging over ten points a game and racking up 18 double-doubles.

Trent Johnson recruited Hustle for the 2014-2015 season, a year after which the Frogs had gone 2-16 in their first year in the Big 12 conference. He made an impact that first year, tallying eight double-doubles in conference play and was a top ten rebounder in the Big 12 on the year. After his junior campaign was derailed due to injury - in fact, he missed nearly two years of competition overall - Kenrich came back to lead the Frogs to places they had never been, averaging just shy of a double-double in a season that ended in an NIT Championship and a Most Outstanding Player award. In Dixon’s first year leading the program, Williams started 36/37 games, put up 19 double-doubles to lead the Big 12, recorded just the second triple double in TCU history, and led the team to basketball mecca in winning the NIT Championship at Madison Square Garden. It wasn’t by accident, according to his coach.

“I know that the program and the change from their sophomore years to these last two years, and the rise - that’s probably what will be remembered. But I know we think, and we will talk to recruits about this, it’s their improvement and the things that they do really well. Kenrich is a good three point shooter, a good shooter, and that wasn’t what he was. And you talk about Vlad, and he’s as good as anybody at scoring on the block, and that wasn’t the case two years ago,” Dixon said. “I think you tell recruits ‘you want to come to a place where you’re going to get better. And look at these two guys who became all-league players, and neither one of them had a scholarship offer coming out of high school. I think that speaks volumes for us, as well as them. They work so hard, they’re in the gym - Vlad lifts, he’s up to five lifts a week during the season, it just shows the kind of commitment. It’s those type of things. Kenrich is the first guy in the gym everyday.”

Their paths were not of the straight and narrow variety - both took circuitous routes to get to Fort Worth. Kenrich saw his wind through the desert of New Mexico, while Vlad traveled from Slovakia to Pratt Community College in Kansas, before finding a home at TCU. That’s a rarity in this day and age, according to Coach Dixon. “Both were qualifiers went to junior colleges - that’s unheard of. And both became All-Big 12 players. Neither had an offer out of high school, and now they are all-league players. I don’t know if you can find one of those guys, let alone two.”

And what about the Frogs’ big man? Brodziansky finishes his career tied for the all-time lead in blocks with James Penny - part of the last team to make the tourney before this year - with 171. He averaged double digit scoring in his career, improving his rebounding, rim protection, and passing each season. Last year, he became one of the most versatile big men in a conference full of them, transforming himself from a skinny sophomore to one of the most feared offensive players over the course of his three years, thanks to a 6,000 calorie a day diet and five day a week lifting regime.

Seeing those two players, especially, after Friday night’s loss just about broke me... the emotion poured out of both of them, and the tears in their eyes were real. Vlad’s response when asked about his mini-run late in the game to keep TCU close was heart-wrenching, as the big guy simply said “I didn’t want my career to be over, so I did everything I could to try and help my team win.” It was clear neither was ready to put on the purple for the last time, but for as exciting and amazing as March can be, she can also be a cruel, cruel mistress.

Kenrich Williams and Vladimir Brodziansky will never play basketball at TCU again. It’s a sobering fact. But, the legacy they will have left will be woven into the fabric of this program for years to come, as TCU Basketball stops celebrating making the tournament and starts celebrating (hopefully) advancing deep into it. Both will likely move on to professional ball - Williams is a likely NBA Draft this summer, while Vlad may be more suited to the European game - but, hopefully, they will both be around campus when possible, supporting the program that they had a huge part in bringing back to relevancy. There aren’t two better people to represent TCU Basketball’s journey back to success better than two players who exemplify it in their own lives.

As the Frogs recruit more star power, and TCU Basketball becomes a destination for the best players in the country, it’s important that we remember two players who came with little fanfare of their own to a program that couldn’t have been worse off - and transformed themselves and their team into something to celebrate. What a journey it has been, indeed.

Thanks, Kenny. Thanks, Vlad.

We are going to miss you.