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2008 TCU Basketball Blue Ribbon Preview

COACH AND PROGRAM

After six seasons under coach Neil Dougherty that produced a 75-108 record and just one record of better than .500, TCU made a change last spring. The school brought in Jim Christian from Kent State, and unlike Dougherty, who had never been a head coach, Christian has a track record running his own program. He led the Golden Flashes of the Mid-American Conference to a 138-58 mark the last six seasons.

“The transition has gone well and I really like the potential of this school and the programs that are already successful here,” Christian said. “There is a commitment here to do well in men’s basketball, and that’s why I am here.”

TCUHorned Frogs

Last Season 14-16 (.467)
Conference Record 6-10 (7th)
Starters Lost/Returning 3/2
Coach Jim Christian (Rhode Island ’88)
Record At School First year
Career Record 138-58 (6 years)
RPI Last 5 years 122-91-287-183-198

TCU has struggled to draw much interest. It averaged 3,529 fans over 17 home games last season and has been at or near the bottom in home attendance since it joined the Mountain West Conference in the 2005-06 season.

Fans that check out the Horned Frogs this season will need a roster; they return only two starters and two other lettermen. TCU lost 48.7 points and 25 rebounds from nine players who are no longer with the team.

“It’s difficult to go over a lot of our guys because we are so young and I haven’t seen them play yet,” Christian said. “We have eight newcomers and I brought in five of them.”

PLAYERS

Christian does have an all-conference performer to build around in 6-8, 245-pound senior forward Kevin Langford (#32, 13.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg), who was a third-team All-MWC selection and tied for team-high scoring honors in 2007-08. Langford enters his third year with the Horned Frogs after the Fort Worth native transferred from California.

“He’s the only senior we have,” Christian said. “He’s a veteran guy who has been through the battles, and so far he has done a great job of helping everyone with this new transition. “He will definitely be counted on a lot this season.”

If last season is any indication, Christian will pretty much be able to pencil in double figures in scoring every time Langford steps on the floor. A year ago he reached double figures in a MWC-high 22 straight games. That included a career-high 31 against Prairie View.

The other starter who returns is 6-1 junior guard Jason Ebie (#3, 4.7 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.8 spg), who played in all 30 games last season and started 14. He was among the conference’s leaders in steals and helped TCU average a league-best 9.2 steals per game. However, Christian quickly pointed out that team also was last in field-goal percentage defense (.455).

“That has to change,” he said.

What also has to change is TCU’s ability to shoot the ball — it was last in the league in field-goal percentage (.402), and other than Langford it is uncertain who will pick up a lot of the scoring slack.

Six-foot-4, 220-pound guard Henry Salter was second in scoring last season (13.3 ppg) and one of the better perimeter shooters in the conference in his first season out of junior college. However, he transferred to an NAIA school after the season. TCU also has to replace guard Brent Hackett (11.6 ppg, 1.6 apg, 1.4 spg) and center Alvardo Parker (5.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg).

Two guards who lettered last season are juniors Keion Mitchem and Nick Metzger. The 5-10 Mitchem (#22, 4.7 ppg, 1.3 rpg) played in 29 games and had a career-high 16 points in a game against Air Force. Metzger (#30, 0.1 ppg, 0.3 rpg), 6-3, saw limited action in seven games.

Christian hopes to get an offensive lift from a couple of junior-college transfers. Six-foot-9, 220-pound post Zvonko Buljan (#1) averaged 12.7 points and nine rebounds last season at Vincennes University. Buljan is from Croatia and Christian likes his skill and ability for a big man, especially along the perimeter. “He’s a very skilled player, can play inside or outside and rebounds extremely well,” Christian said.

Christian also brought in one of the better three-point shooters out of the junior-college ranks in Edvinas Ruzgas, another European from Lithuania via Weatherford (Texas) College. Ruzgas earned All-Region V honors last season and averaged 19.2 points per game.

Forward Greg Richardson (#34) should provide a defensive presence in the post. The 6-8, 210-pound Richardson averaged 7.8 points and eight rebounds per contest last season at Dawson (Mont.) Community College.

Brandon Smith (6-6, 206) is a transfer from Minnesota who sat out last season.

The four freshmen who join the Horned Frogs are backcourt players. Kevin Butler, (#24), 6-5, was rated as the 16th-best prospect in Texas as a senior out of Duncanville High, and 6-6 Logan Lancon was the 43rd best out of Houston. Butler uses his size to his advantage. He can post up and rebound and also has shooting range to the three-point line.

Lancon, too, can score in several ways. He can jump and finish in traffic, knows how to create his own shot off the bounce and also moves without the ball. He’s got three-point range.

Ronnie Moss, 6-2, averaged 14 points and six assists per game at Fort Worth’s Life Christian Academy.

One player who could see immediate playing time is 6-2 Kavon Rose (#12) who was ranked as the fourth-best high school prospect in Michigan as a senior. Last season he averaged 22 points, nine rebounds, six steals and five assists for Detroit Finney High School. Rose originally signed with Oregon State, but was let out of his scholarship when coach John Jay was fired.

BLUE RIBBON ANALYSIS

BACKCOURT: D
BENCH/DEPTH: D
FRONTCOURT: C
INTANGIBLES: C

It’s difficult to predict what TCU will do this season with a new coach and several new players. But if Christian’s record is any indication, it won’t take long for him to win in Fort Worth.

He won at least 20 games in each of his six seasons at Kent State, which was one of six teams in the country to do that. Duke, Kansas, Florida, Gonzaga and Creighton are the others.

Christian was the first MAC coach to accomplish that feat, and his .704 winning percentage is the best in conference history.

Christian was 79-28 in conference games, including 40-10 the last three seasons.

Known as a hard-nosed coach who likes his teams to play physically, Christian may not be able to do that completely in his first season. He got a taste of what the Mountain West has to offer as UNLV beat Kent State, 71-58, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season.

It was UNLV that ended TCU’s season with an 89-88 victory in the first round of the MWC Tournament.

“This is a great league with great coaches,” Christian said. “I think it is one of the more underrated leagues in the nation. There are a lot of great programs and great players.”

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