STEPHEN HAWKINS, AP Sports Writer
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Third-year TCU coach Trent Johnson has been asked a few times this preseason why he is so happy and excited.
Others may be surprised at how he feels since the Horned Frogs, despite four returning starters, still have a roster filled mostly with underclassmen after losing all 18 of their Big 12 Conference games last season.
“For the first time (at TCU) … I have a full complement of players, 13 guys on scholarship and three walk-ons, and we’re healthy,” Johnson said. “Obviously we’ve improved from an athletic standpoint with some of the guys we had sitting out on our basketball team, and some of the guys we signed from a recruitment standpoint. So our practices are much more competitive, we’re a lot better. Our skill level is a lot better.”
The Frogs were certainly plagued by injuries their first two Big 12 seasons.
Amric Fields, now a senior and one of the returning starters, missed more than a year after getting hurt in the opening seconds of the third game of the 2012-13 season, TCU’s first after the Mountain West Conference. Highly touted big-man recruit Aaron Durley never even got on the court because of injury and is no longer on the team after two seasons. Former Arkansas transfer Devonta Abron, now a junior, also was hurt.
TCU returns starting post players Karviar Shepherd and Brandon Parrish, the duo among seven TCU sophomores. The roster has also been bolstered by the availability of Division I transfers Trey Zeigler (from Pittsburgh) and Chris Washburn (from UTEP).
“We’ve established ourselves in terms of how we conduct ourselves socially and academically and all those kinds of things,” said Johnson, 20-43 overall at TCU, and 2-34 in the Big 12. “The next step for us is winning our share of basketball games. I am happy until we play our first game, and then we’ll find out from there.”
Here are a few things to watch for the Frogs this season, which opens Nov. 14 at home against Prairie View:
POINT MAN: Senior point guard Kyan Anderson has started 85 of his 96 games at TCU, including all 63 the last two seasons. Anderson led the Frogs last season with 17 points a game, along with 139 assists and 43 steals. “Kyan, he has better players around him,” Johnson said. “What he did last year, for a team that was decimated by injuries, was pretty impressive because he always kept playing and kept competing.”
NO LONGER SCOUTS: Trey Zeigler plays his senior season at his third Division I school, and 6-foot-8 post player Chris Washburn is home. After playing as a freshman and sophomore for his father at Central Michigan, guard Zeigler appeared in 31 games for Pittsburgh. Washburn, from nearby Grand Prairie, Texas, played as a freshman at UTEP. Zeigler and Washburn had to sit out after transferring but were able to practice last season for the Frogs, and had roles with the scout team. “Usually I was the best perimeter player from the other team, and Chris was the best big man,” Zeigler said.
STANDING TALL: Freshman center Link Kabadyundi stands at 7 foot, 1 inch, making him the tallest TCU player since 6-11 Luke Tauscher in 2007-08. Kabadyundi is a Montreal native who averaged 10 points, 12 rebounds and 3.5 blocks as a senior at Alma Academy in Quebec.
OFF CAMPUS: With its home arena undergoing a $59 million complete renovation, TCU will play home games this season at Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center. That building, just less than 10 miles from campus, is owned by the Fort Worth Independent School District.
ARE YOU EXPERIENCED?: TCU has only three players with multiple letters — seniors Amric Fields and Kyan Anderson with three each, and junior Charles Hill Jr. with two. Only six of the remaining 13 players have earned letters.