Frogs have promising mix of talent and experience
TCU has a core of experienced players, mostly guards, who Jamie Dixon believes can keep his team afloat in the Big 12 and beyond. It’s under the basket where the Horned Frogs have to develop something to replace the abilities of Vladimir Brodziansky, third in the league in shooting percentage, 10th in scoring and sixth in blocks a year ago.
“We’re an interesting team because we’ve got like five guys back that pretty much averaged double figures, but then we have eight new guys,” Dixon says. “Four of them were in our program last year for various times. Some practiced more than others, but not as much practice as I would have liked for any of them.”
TCU ranked second in the country in assists last year (18.6 apg), ninth nationally in shooting (49.6 percent) and second in the Big 12 in scoring (82.1 ppg). Many of the players responsible for those numbers — guards Alex Robinson and Desmond Bane and forward Kouat Noi — return, but much is also gone in the form of guard Kenrich Williams and Brodziansky, two of the league’s more productive players a year ago.
At a Glance
HEAD COACH: Jamie Dixon
2017-18 RECORD (BIG 12): 21-12 (9-9)
2017-18 POSTSEASON: NCAA: Lost to Syracuse 57-52 in the first round
F Vladimir Brodziansky (15.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg)
F Ahmed Hamdy (5.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg)
F Kenrich Williams (13.2 ppg, 9.3 ppg, 3.9 apg)
Noi is on track to be one of the best scoring stretch forwards in the league after hitting 43.4 percent on 3-pointers as a freshman, fourth in the Big 12. He provided instant offense off the bench but is a likely starter now. His frontcourt mate could be senior JD Miller or four-star freshman forward Kaden Archie, one of Dixon’s biggest signings in three years at TCU.
“Physically as ready as a freshman could be,” Dixon says of the 6'6" Archie. “If he can defend, he’s going to play a lot of minutes.”
At center, massive redshirt freshman Kevin Samuel (6'11", 265) and true freshman Russell Barlow (6'10", 230) give TCU more size on the block than the school has ever taken into Big 12 battles. That will be critical for rebounding, an area in which the Frogs excelled a year ago.
Two New Zealand natives, junior college transfer Yuat Alok and redshirt freshman Angus McWilliam, could help as well. Both can shoot from the outside.
The bulk of TCU’s experience and points are in the backcourt. Robinson was fourth in the Big 12 with 6.1 assists per game last season, and Bane led the league in 3-point percentage (46.1). If the Frogs can get a full season of health from junior Jaylen Fisher (20 games missed the last two seasons because of meniscus injuries), he’ll give them a strong ball handler, creative passer and aggressive scorer at the rim. The 6'2" guard was averaging 12.3 points and was fifth in the conference in assists when he was hurt five games into the league schedule last season. Fisher suffered another knee injury over the summer, but he hopes to be ready to go by the opener.
Senior Shawn Olden played 29 games off the bench last season and shot 37.0 percent on 3-pointers. Three-star signee Kendric Davis is a 5'10" point guard with a quick drive and shooting touch who can distribute.
The Frogs believe that off-guard RJ Nembhard will provide another scoring option outside now that he has recovered from knee and ankle injuries that forced him to redshirt a year ago.
The Horned Frogs are missing the top two scorers, Williams and Brodziansky, from the Big 12’s second-best scoring offense a year ago. But the roster retains punch in Fisher, Noi and Bane, who each have all-conference potential. For Dixon, the challenge is meshing an experienced core that has won 45 games the past two seasons with a promising but inexperienced group of redshirt freshmen and incoming signees. Finding the best eight-man rotation could take time, but it will be a talented eight.
Postseason Prediction: Two & Out
Big 12 Prediction: 4th