Heading into the 2008-09 campaign - the TCU?men's basketball program believes in one simple phrase that speaks volumes about what the Horned Frogs are trying to accomplish under first-year head coach Jim Christian. The phrase "It All Begins with One..." There are those who read the phrase and wonder "What Begins with One?" And - there are those who understand it completely.
In his first season at the helm of the Purple and White - Christian believes that the success of the TCU basketball program begins with one... One Team, One Focus, One Attitude, One Shot, One Half, One Game, One Mission, One Goal and most importantly - One Another.
After only one winning season in the previous six campaigns - Christian took on the task of rebuilding a Frogs' program that has been craving a winner to join the likes of the Purple and White's football, women's basketball and baseball programs. When he became the 19th head men's basketball coach in program history - Christian took his time in assembling a coaching staff and team knowing that he needed to get the right people in place to help turn around the fortunes of the Purple and White.
"I really took my time to make sure that I got the right guys in here," said the TCU?head men's basketball coach. "It's the most important decision any coach has to make when putting together a staff. I was looking for guys who had the whole package, who were good recruiters, who knew how and were successful in recruiting the State of Texas and those who could fill the places that we needed to be filled. I really believe that I?brought in the best guys possible to help me accomplish our goals."
The goals for the TCU?men's basketball program are very simple - recruit tremendous student-athletes, mold young men into the future leaders of tomorrow and secure success on the basketball court. These are goals that Christian has set forth for the Frogs and looking back at his track record at Kent State - which included six consecutive 20-win seasons and five post-season appearances - these are goals that are extremely attainable for the Purple and White.
Kevin Langford (Fort Worth, Texas | University of Califonia) keys the frontcourt for the Frogs during the 2008-09 campaign as the Fort Worth talent led the Purple and White in scoring (13.3 P-G) and rebounding (5.3 R-G) en route to securing third team All-Mountain West Conference accolades during his junior season. The TCU?forward posted double-digit scoring performances in 24 of 30 games for the Frogs - including a Mountain West Conference-high mark of 22 consecutive games.
Langford concluded his junior campaign ranked seventh in the Mountain West Conference in offensive rebounds per game (2.03 R-G), eighth in free throw percentage (72.8%), 10th in rebounds per game (5.3 R-G) and 11th in scoring average (13.3 P-G). Selected as the Mountain West Conference Player of the Week on December 24th - Langford became the first player since 2001-02 to score 30 or more points in a game after notching 31 points against Prairie View A&M.
Having started 60 consecutive games for the Frogs over the last two campaigns - Langford is the most experienced member of the team and will be looked upon to not only continue to put up solid numbers, but also provide leadership and ownership of the Purple and White.
Joining Langford in the frontcourt will be fellow senior John Ortiz (Cali, Colombia | Colby Community College)?- who appeared in 29 games a season ago with 15 trips to the starting lineup. Ortiz concluded the season by averaging 5.2 points and 5.1 rebounds per game while seeing action in 19.8 minutes per contest. The TCU?senior ranked sixth in the Mountain West Conference in offensive rebounds (2.07 R-G) and 14th in rebounds per game (5.1 R-G) while recording five or more boards in 16 of 29 games.
Junior college transfer Zvonko Buljan (Split, Croatia | Vincennes University) will bring a strong presence in the low block for the Frogs as the 6-9 center concluded his sophomore season at Vincennes University by averaging 12.7 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. Buljan recorded 12 double-doubles during the season and connected on 53.7 percent (161-of-300) of his field goal attempts en route to leading Vincennes University to a district crown and a berth at the NJCAA?National Championships.
Greg Richardson (Jacksonville, Fla. | Dawson Community College) also signed with the Purple and White during the summer months after spending the previous two campaigns at Dawson Community College where he averaged 7.8 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. The 6-8 forward connected on 53.9 percent (76-of-141) of his field goal attempts and notched nine double-digit scoring games last season.
The Frogs will have a pair of talented freshmen waiting in the wings in the frontcourt in newcomers Kevin Butler (Duncanville, Texas | Duncanville H.S.) and Logan Lancon (Houston, Texas | Clear Creek H.S.)
Butler was ranked as the 16th-best prospect in the State of Texas after coming out of the nationally-recognized Duncanville High School program. The TCU rookie averaged 13.6 points and 7.9 rebounds during his senior season en route to securing all-state accolades.
Lancon was ranked 43rd in the State of Texas during his senior campaign and averaged 12.3 points to go along with 4.4 rebounds per game despite missing half of the season due to injuries.
The Frogs will have a fine mixture of experience, youth and talent in the backcourt this season as the versatility of the group should be a strength for the Purple and White. TCU?will bring back experience in returning lettermen Jason Ebie (Houston, Texas | Alief Elsik H.S.) and Keion Mitchem (Rochester, N.Y. | Rochester East H.S.)?and will add a scoring punch in the wing in sharp-shooter Edvinas Ruzgas (Vilnius, Lithuania | Weatherford College).
Ebie appeared in all 30 games last season and was the starting point guard for the Frogs in the team's final 14 contests of the 2007-08 campaign. Returning for his junior campaign - the Houston, Texas, native ranked 78th among all NCAA?Division I players in steals per game and concluded his second season by setting career-highs in 20 statistical categories.
Last season - Ebie was a standout on the defensive side of the court where he recorded a Mountain West Conference-high 24 consecutive games with at least one steal. In addition - Ebie also contributed a scoring punch to the point guard position in conference action as he recorded three double-digit scoring performances against league foes - including a career-high 12 points against Colorado State.
Mitchem gave the Frogs' a burst of energy off of the bench last season as he appeared in 29 games with one trip to the starting lineup. The TCU?junior is a dangerous shooter from beyond the three-point arc after connecting on 31 during his sophomore campaign - including a five-trey performance against Mountain West Conference-foe Air Force.
In his first full season with the Purple and White - Mitchem saw action in 13.4 minutes per evening and set career-highs in 17 statistical categories - including points, rebounds, steals and assists per game. The Rochester, N.Y., native earned his first collegiate start against the Air Force Academy where he recorded the first of his two double-digit scoring performances against the Falcons.
The sharp-shooting ability of junior college-transfer Ruzgas will pay dividends for the Frogs this season. Last season - the 6-6 guard connected on 50.3 percent (89-of-177) of his three-point field goal attempts and 61.2 percent (177-of-289) of his overall field goal attempts. Ruzgas concluded his sophomore season ranked eighth among all NJCAA?players in three-point field goal percentage.
A first team All-North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference and All-NJCAA?Region V selection - Ruzgas led Weatherford College to a 24-6 overall record with an 11-2 mark in conference action. That season - Ruzgas scored a career-high 44 points against Grayson Community College in addition to 25-plus scoring performances against six other opponents in his final campaign with the Coyotes.
The Frogs have a pair of juniors that will add depth to the backcourt in Nick Metzger (San Antonio, Texas | Reagan H.S.)?and A.J. Siebert (Southlake, Texas | Trinity University). Metzger appeared in seven games a season ago while Siebert sat out the 2007-08 campaign due to a red-shirt.
During the summer months -increased their strength and talent in the backcourt when Christian signed freshmen Ronnie Moss (Fort Worth, Texas | Christian Life Academy)?and Kavon Rose (Detroit, Mich. | Finney H.S.)?- who were both highly-talented players coming out of high school.
Moss will provide the Frogs with a hard-nosed, physical mentality in the backcourt as the highly-touted guard joined the Purple and White program after averaging 14.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game at Christian Life Academy.
Rose brings a potent scoring punch to the guard position as the Detroit, Mich., standout was a highly-regarded talent coming out of Finney High School. Considered one of the best players in the State of Michigan - Rose averaged 22.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 6.0 steals and 5.0 assists per game in his final prep season en route to be selected to the "Dream Team" by several Michigan publications.
The Final Take
In his first season as the leader of the Frogs - Christian has surrounded himself with a diverse staff all committed to the same goal as well as a team focused on changing the fortunes of the TCU?program. In order to build the foundation of success - every person associated with the TCU?men's basketball program must be focused on the same goal because in the end - "It All Begins With One."