TCU has several new faces but returns two key building blocks as it opens the season Wednesday against visiting Houston Baptist in Fort Worth, Texas.
Center Kevin Samuel and guard RJ Nembhard, juniors who served as solid wingmen to 2020 first-round draft pick Desmond Bane a year ago, will try topropel the Horned Frogs forward after a 16-16 season that included a 7-11 mark in the Big 12 Conference.
Nembhard ranked second on the team to Bane in scoring (12.1 points per game) and assists (102). He also shot the most free throws (104) for the Horned Frogs, hitting at a 74.0 percent clip.
Samuel is a tantalizing presence at 6-foot-11, 255 pounds with a level of athleticism that allowed him to block 85 shots to go with 10.0 points and 8.4 rebounds a game.
"He's improved each year gradually and that's a lot coming from where he came from when he got here," TCU coach Jamie Dixon said. "We hope his conditioning is a little better, talked to him about his body and trying to become an elite-level athlete, an elite-level physicality, and that's where I think he's going."
As much as the Frogs will lean on Nembhard and Samuel, intriguing newcomers will need to emerge.
TCU features four freshmen who redshirted last season, three true freshmen who were rated as four-star recruits, and transfer Chuck O'Bannon Jr., a former five-star player who spent the past three seasons at Southern California.
Houston Baptist is coming off a particularly nightmarish campaign when it staggered to a 4-25 record. Scoring wasn't a problem for the Huskies; they averaged 80.1 points a game. But HBU gave up 93.9 points per game, the worst mark in Division I.
Longtime Huskies' coach Ron Cottrell thinks his team has the right mindset to turn the page.
"As bad as everything ended last year, there is a hunger to get better, individually and as a team," Cottrell said. "I feel better about our focus, our intensity, the way guys are going about playing defense. We had to improve in that area, and we still have a team that can really score the ball."
Getting better will have to be done without HBU's best player from last season -- Ian DuBose, who transferred to Wake Forest. He led the Huskies in scoring (19.0 points per game), rebounds (7.3 per game) and assists (111).
Six newcomers will be counted on to make immediate impacts, none more so than junior college transfers Pedro Castro and Darius Lee, both of whom were double-digit scorers last season at that level.
--Field Level Media