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June 14, 2012The TCU men's basketball team should be as ready as ever to begin the 2012-2013 campaign - the program's first under the big lights of the Big 12.
A rule, passed in January, now allows players enrolled in summer school to receive a limited amount of coaching during summer workouts, allowing new TCU coach Trent Johnson eight extra weeks to implement his system in Fort Worth.
Between summer classes, players can receive up to two hours of skill-related interaction with coaches each day, topping out at eight per week.
As of Thursday's Big 12 basketball summer teleconference, Johnson held three workouts with his team, minus incoming freshman and Arkansas transfer Devonta Abron.
The rule change has made Johnson's move to Fort Worth as smooth as he could want.
"The transition has been very smooth," Johnson said. "It's probably as smooth of transition as I've been involved in. Now, as a staff we're taking advantage of the new rule to get some basketball stuff done.
The only major question remaining for Johnson is the availability of Abron, a Seagoville native, for the 2012-2013 season. Abron's exodus from Fayetteville was to return closer to home to manage family issues, a reasoning Abron is presenting to the NCAA to attempt to obtain a waiver to play this fall.
As of Thursday, there were no new updates on that situation.
"All the paperwork has been filed and we're waiting on the necessary people to make a decision as it relates to that," Johnson said.
Abron lead Arkansas in rebounding average in his freshman season, pulling down 4.2 boards per game, averaging about 16 minutes of playing time.
Abron is a key piece to a program renovation project that Johnson said, frankly, doesn't exist with the pressure put on the program to succeed.
"We're trying to be as good as we can in a hurry," Johnson said. "We're trying to win now. I don't like the word rebuilding and that gets thrown around a lot because of the places I've previously been, but with this group, I've told them we're trying to be the best team every day. If we can do those things, and if we stay healthy, well have a chance to compete."
Several Big 12 coaches pitched in their thoughts of the addition of TCU and West Virginia to the Big 12 this season during Thursday's teleconference. Here are a few of the most interesting quotes on the subject:
Baylor coach Scott Drew
"Statistically the last few years, the Big 12 in basketball is the only conference to be ranked in the top three in the RPI in the last few years. I know we've been very successful in getting teams to the tournament and winning percentage in the tournament. When you bring West Virginia and TCU in, it helps with the numbers and actually in some areas it comes out better. The big thing is the core of the Big 12 is together and what I mean by that is; there has been so much tradition and success since the Big 12 was founded I think people realize that this is an elite conference and year-in and year-out you can argue is the best conference in the country."
Texas Tech coach Billy Gillispie
"This is a heck of a league. The teams that are coming in - we're really excited about them. It won't be too exciting when we have to prepare to play them because they are very good and very well coached and they have tradition in basketball. We're really looking forward to competing against those teams and against the returning teams as well. It's going to be a bear."
Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger
"It's great. I know Bob [Huggins] and Trent bring great experience and both of them have done a terrific job. Their programs are really solid. Bob at West Virginia has certainly established that and Trent will get TCU's going at that level, no question about that. So excited to have them on board and know it makes the league only tougher."
Texas coach Rick Barnes
"I've known Trent Johnson for a long time and I think they made a great hire, hiring Trent and I think he's going to do a great job there. I think our league has been so good for a long time, I think it's going to do for TCU what it's done for other team's in the league in the terms that you realize what you've got to do to compete. If you don't, you realize you're not going to be successful and so it's going to improve everything about their program and every sport. I believe that the Big 12 basketball conference is going to become the best basketball league in the country from top to bottom and, with that said, starting my 15th year here, I've watched all the teams that weren't committed to basketball, because of the success other teams have had, it makes them want a piece of the pie. I don't know enough about TCU's' program - what they have, what they don't have - but being a part of this league will make them, if they don't have it, have to get it."