Damion Baugh smiles and quietly says, “I should have come here earlier.”
He’s talking, of course, about TCU. The soft-spoken junior guard has been a key player on Jamie Dixon’s squad this season, averaging just under 11 points, four rebounds, and four assists in 30 minutes per contest.
His accolades this season are already well known. Baugh hit the game winner in Manhattan to beat Kansas State 60-57. He scored 23 points on the road against Iowa State, a game in which he also had seven rebounds, seven steals, and five assists.
Over TCU’s last five games Baugh is averaging 16 points per game on 47.5% shooting from the floor.
But beyond his performance on the court, his work ethic, leadership, and talent have had an impact off the court as well.
“Damion’s been on the team that’s won the most,” Dixon noted earlier this season, when talking about TCU practices. “He’s been consistently that guy.”
Being ‘that guy’ is still new for Baugh, despite what it may look like to fans. Baugh has had a number of big moments and big games this season, helping TCU out to a 16-6 record and their first legitimate shot at an NCAA Tournament berth in four years.
From Nashville to Memphis
Baugh appreciates his expanded role in Fort Worth. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons he transferred to TCU from Memphis.
Baugh grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, playing basketball at Cane Ridge High until his junior year, when he transferred to Tennessee Prep Academy. Baugh arrived in Memphis the same year as NBA legend Penny Hardaway took over as head coach of the Memphis Tigers.
During his senior year Baugh averaged 23 points and 10 rebounds and racked up 10 triple doubles, earning over 20 major offers, including Georgetown, Auburn, Florida, Texas, Illinois, Texas Tech, and TCU.
Baugh narrowed his list down to TCU and Texas Tech, and very well could have wound up in Fort Worth two years earlier. He took an official visit to TCU and fell in love with the school. How close was he to committing to TCU?
“I was close,” Baugh admitted. “It was between here and Tech.”
But then Penny and Memphis came calling, and according to Baugh “everything changed.” The combination of being coached by Hardaway with the opportunity to be close to family made it an easy decision to stay in town.
“It was great,” Baugh said of playing for Penny and Memphis. “I learned a lot of things, how to read pick and rolls, how to use my athleticism, finish around the rim, defensive things, just everything.”
While Baugh was learning a lot, he was primarily an off-ball guard who was asked to do most of his work on the defensive end of the court. His offensive game was limited, and despite starting 25 games as a sophomore and averaging over 20 minutes per game, Baugh averaged less than five points per game.
“It was tough,” Baugh said of the decision to transfer, “but I just prayed about it and had to do what was best for my future.”
Answering the Call: Part 1
So, looking for a new opportunity, Baugh entered the transfer portal on March 31, 2021. The first school to call him? TCU.
“As soon as they called me I was kind of like, yeah, yeah I’m going here,” said Baugh.
Texas Tech made a late push for him, offering him on the day he committed to TCU, but it was too little too late for the Red Raiders.
Since being in Fort Worth, Baugh says his expectations have been blown away. From the fanbase, to the campus, to his teammates, everything has been more than he could have hoped for.
When asked what has impressed him the most, Baugh answered without hesitation: “The fans.”
Memphis plays their games in the FedEx Forum, the home court for former TCU Horned Frog Desmond Bane and the Memphis Grizzlies. While it’s a cool setting for college basketball, the stadium is about a 15 minute drive from campus.
Meanwhile, TCU’s Schollmaier Arena rests near the center of campus and, this year more than any in recent memory, students and fans have been turning up in droves to see the Frogs play.
“They make a big difference,” Baugh said. He said if there’s one thing he could do to sell TCU to recruits, it would be the students and fans. “Just tell them to come to a game and see the fans. It makes a huge difference.”
Answering the Call: Part 2
Baugh came to TCU with the expectation of a larger role, but nothing could have prepared him for what he’s been asked to do this season.
Baugh “wouldn’t have guessed in a million years” that his role would be this large, but that’s what happens when you’re suddenly the only guard that’s fully healthy. TCU lost guards Maxwell Evans and Shahada Wells right at the start of the season, meaning that the two primary ball handlers behind Mike Miles were no longer available.
That meant Baugh would see more time running point, a role that only increased when Miles suffered a wrist injury against Baylor, and then reinjured said wrist in practice two weeks ago.
To add insult to the list of injuries, Francisco Farabello started suffering cramps in TCU’s win over Oklahoma State last week.
“At first it was a little frustrating,” Baugh admitted, “because those are my backcourt buddies, you know?”
“We’re the guards, we do everything together.” Baugh continued. “Then Max goes out, then we’ve got one down. Then Hada goes out, then Mike goes out. Then Fran cramped up, so it’s just me.”
Communication between the guards has never been interrupted, though, as Baugh says they are all constantly talking to each other about what they see in practice and in games, giving their wisdom and insight.
Meanwhile, Baugh has seen his game grow. He attributes that to the expanded role, but his work ethic plays a major role as well.
Baugh is texting TCU basketball’s graduate assistants daily about getting in the gym and continuing to work. “Even after games I text them ‘what time are we getting in the gym tomorrow?’” Baugh said, chuckling.
Answering the Call: Part 3
Through it all, Baugh has enjoyed being relied on so heavily by his teammates.
“I think it’s just a bond we have.” Baugh said, “They all trust me to do whatever, because the know I wouldn’t tell them to do something I couldn’t do or wouldn’t do.”
The trust that runs throughout the team is evident in almost every aspect. This team is closer than any we’ve seen out of TCU in quite some time.
We got a glimpse of that camaraderie after TCU’s win over Oklahoma State, when five guys were available for the postgame interview. Baugh says they’re like that all the time.
“We were just like that in the weight room.” Baugh said. “I think it makes it easier on the court because our bond off the court is just so close together.”
That closeness reveals itself in how much these guys trust one another, which is the reason behind Baugh’s little telephone hand sign he makes after big moments (pictured above).
When Mike Miles went down with an injury, he called on Baugh to step up. When asked how Baugh responded:
“Answered the call.”