TCU first-year head coach Jamie Dixon has heard the saying before.
Don’t win too many games in year one.
TCU (19-15) will play Fresno State (20-12) in the first-round of the NIT on Wednesday night. The 2016-17 season for the Frogs was a turnaround not many expected outside of Fort Worth.
“We were picked 10th,” said Dixon on Monday.
It has been 12 years since TCU last made the NIT – 19 since making the NCAA tournament.
“We are really excited,” said Dixon. “We are headed in the right direction.”
The Frogs haven’t won 19 or more games since 2004-05. Their six wins in conference play was the most since joining the Big 12. A win over No. 1 Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament was their first win over a No. 1 in program history.
“There is no question,” Dixon said, when asked about the program’s direction trending up. “Ticket sales were up dramatically. We had sold out arenas. The NIT bid. We made progress in every way possible - significant progress. We are excited. We probably moved up the process faster than anyone would have thought, but it is a good thing.”
No matter what happens on Wednesday, expectations will be high in Fort Worth next season. On paper it appears TCU will be ready for the challenge. The Frogs return their top six scorers next season. A NIT run would only help with chemistry.
“The more experience you have with each other, helps with chemistry,” said sophomore guard Alex Robinson.
When Dixon and staff landed in Texas, immediately the Frogs saw an uptick in recruiting. Dixon was selling a vision to recruits on what the future would hold.
“We have done everything we said were going to do - setting the tone, style of play, recruitment, disciple, and the character of kids we recruited,” said Dixon. “Everything we said, we did – that’s not often done in recruiting…I think we have put ourselves in a really good place going forward with creditability and excitement around the program. Recruiting is a lot of talk. To follow up and do is great.”
The players felt they did their part.
“That is always the hardest part selling the vision. Everyone is going to try to sell something,” said Robinson regarding the turnaround. “It shows Coach Dixon is really reliable. It helps our program a lot, especially with recruits in this recruiting class and next. It is all about reputation.”
Houston (Texas) St. Thomas Episcopal school four-star center Kevin Samuel didn’t need to see TCU’s turnaround to jump into the program. He bought what was being sold last summer. http://www.scout.com/player/201991-kevin-samuel?s=360
“Coach Dixon is doing a great job with the program in his first year there,” said Samuel. “The team isn’t playing for themselves, but the name on the jersey. I only wish to take the program to the big dance next year and win couple games as well.”
Samuel is known for his abilities as a defender around the rim. He has a long frame and is improving on the offensive side of the floor.
“I think I’ll be more fundamentally sound playing for him,” said Samuel. “He works with bigs – he’s got bigs in the NBA. I envision my role as coming out and playing to my potential. I want to be a rim defender and make plays when it counts.”
http://www.scout.com/player/194713-r-j-nembhard?s=360 Samuel isn’t the only TCU signee expected to make an impact next season. Keller (Texas) four-star prospect R.J. Nembard averaged over 20 points per game this season on a squad that made the 6A UIL Boys State Basketball Championship. In addition, Kouat Noi will be coming off a redshirt season. Noi was one of the top international players in 2016, averaging 19 points and shooting nearly 60 percent from the field for Monteverde Academy in Florida.
?Wednesday’s NIT opener against Fresno State starts at 7 p.m. from Schollmaier Areana.