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TCU preview: Dixon takes over basement-dweller with plans to win now

Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire

Jamie Dixon had a 328-123 record (.727 winning percentage) in 13 seasons as Pitt coach. During the same 13 seasons, Dixon’s alma mater TCU compiled a 172-241 record, a .416 winning percentage with just three winning seasons.

That’s the rebuilding challenge Dixon faces as he takes over a team that has finished last in the Big 12 in each of its four seasons while winning a total of eight league games. The coaches predicted the Frogs would again finish in the basement this season.

His first team has a mix of veterans and newcomers. Dixon has made it clear his goal is renovate and win now, not rebuild for the future. Seniors Karviar Shepherd, Chris Washburn, Michael Williams and Brandon Parrish have been through a coaching change, a conference transition and being relocated while the arena was updated.

“These guys have been through a lot, but they’re still here,” Dixon said. What these guys have done says a lot about their commitment, their love for the university, and I want them to go out on a great note. The tenth pick in the conference, that has maybe came up once or twice. We’ve got plenty of things to motivate us, and that will just be another one.”

Dixon and his staff have already made impressive recruiting strides. Freshman Jaylen Fisher, ranked No. 34 nationally by ESPN, is the highest-ranked player to ever sign with TCU. The 6-foot-2 point guard could have an instant impact this season.

“Jaylen’s very good. He’s what we needed. Point guards win college basketball games,” Dixon said.

“I believe we have 13 guys that can play,” said Parrish, who started all 33 games last season.

“If coach wants to go 8- or 10-deep, we can do it. We could have a different guy step up every night. (Dixon) more of a player’s coach for us … He’s given us a lot of freedom to do the things that he thinks we do best.”

Parrish even went so far as to say the Frogs are going to be in the NCAA Tournament. That can be chalked up to the enthusiasm of youth.

Pitt reached the NCAA Tournament in 11 of the 13 seasons with Dixon as coach. TCU hasn’t played in the postseason since a CBI appearance in 2012 and hasn’t been in the NCAA Tournament since 1998. Jumping from the Big 12 basement to playing extra March games is unlikely this season, but the Frogs are convinced that the foundation will be laid this season for future success.

“You can sell that to recruits,” Dixon said of the building process in Fort Worth. “But I look at it as completely a new program. We can’t do anything about the last 30 years. We’re starting over. We’re a new program for so many reasons, and I think it’s just the best way for us to look at it.”

TCU at a glance

Coach: Jamie Dixon.
Last season: 12-21 overall, 2-16 in Big 12, tenth.
NCAA Tournament: Did not qualify.
Key departures: G Chauncey Collins, F Davonta Abron.
Starters returning: 6-foot-6 Sr. G Brandon Parrish, 6-11 Sr. F Karviar Shepherd, 6-foot-2 Jr. G Malique Trent.
Top returnees: 6-foot-8 Sr. F Chris Washburn, 6-foot-2 Sr. G Michael Williams, 6-foot-7 Jr. G/F Kenrich Williams, 6-foot-11 Jr. F Vladimir Brodziansky.
Newcomers: 6-foot-2 Fr. G Jaylen Fisher, 6-foot-7 Fr. F Kouat Noi, 6-foot-4 Fr. G Josh Parrish, 6-foot-1 Jr. G Alex Robinson.

Perimeter

How well this group is depends largely on how well Fisher plays as a freshman. Robinson, a transfer from Texas A&M who sat out last season, along with Trent and senior Michael Williams, will give Dixon plenty of options and combinations.

Frontcourt

TCU has plenty of depth led by Shepherd, Washburn and Brodziansky, but all three will need to increase their production if the Frogs are going to improve. Kenrich Williams, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, is a “glue guy” who — two seasons ago — proved his worth as a defender and rebounder.

Depth

This depends on how many players on this crowded roster can fit in with the new coaching staff and produce. Freshmen Josh Parrish and Noi could help off the bench if they can acclimate themselves.

Overall

This is a program on the rise, but making a huge jump — enough to forge a winning record in the Big 12 — is difficult. Figure on TCU improving on last year’s record. It will be the down payment on a brighter future.

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