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April 18, 2013

Basketball program announces DMC renovations

Trent Johnson knew what was missing Wednesday night.

That's why when he stood on the patio at Buffalo Brothers off of University Drive, he looked around at the alumni and fans and donors milling around, and came to a conclusion regarding his TCU basketball team.

"The only weak link we got in this whole deal is not our facilities any more, not our administration, not our fan base," Johnson said before pointing to himself, reflecting on his team. "This is the only weak link."

Johnson might be right, but you can't blame him for feeling pretty good about how things are going for the Frogs off the court.

TCU announced Wednesday morning the approval of a plan to renovate Daniel-Meyer Coliseum, an attempt at modernizing the 52-year-old arena. Fans turned out in decent numbers later in the day to celebrate the news during Johnson's final radio show of the year.

The DMC overhaul is projected to cost around $45 million. Ed and Rae Schollmaier pledged $10 million, kickstarting the effort, which will begin once the remaining funds have been raised. Athletics director Chris Del Conte said the school hopes that have that happen by November.

The renovation plans include an upgrade to the façade, which would "architecturally complement" Amon G. Carter Stadium and the rest of TCU's campus, according to a press release. Wider concourses, seats closer to a lowered court and new team locker rooms are also among the main projects in the works.

For Del Conte, renovating the aging arena was a natural step following the recent work done to the football stadium.

"I think once the conference was settled and Amon Carter was done, we focused our attention on Daniel-Meyer," Del Conte said. "When you walk into Amon Carter stadium and see the amenities we have, you don't have those here."

Del Conte emphasized the importance of TCU fully committing itself to building the basketball program, which hasn't produced an NCAA tournament team since 1995.

"Right now, when a recruit comes on campus, the first thing they ask is, "Are you committed to men's basketball?" Del Conte said. "We say we are. But have our actions dictated that we've been? They will now. No doubt about it."

But the Frogs' recent all-in commitment to basketball has created a unique scenario, at least in the recent history of TCU athletics upgrades.

Renovations to the football facilities followed nearly a decade of winning, capped by the team's 2010 undefeated season and Rose Bowl win. Ongoing plans at Lupton Stadium have also come after similar success, including a trip to the 2010 College World Series.

The challenge now for Johnson and his team will be winning games, proving to fans - and maybe more importantly, to donors - they deserve their new digs.

That process started last fall with the signing of Karviar Shepherd, Brandon Parrish and Michael Williams and continued Wednesday with the signing of Hudson Price, a shooting guard from Orlando whose father, Mark Price, played 12 seasons in the NBA.

The signees should help, Johnson said.

"(Signing class) is real key in terms of making sure that we're worthy of being in those facilities," Johnson said. "And when I say worthy, win games. We've talked before, our baseball program, our football program, they won a lot of games before those renovations were done."

With renovation plans not scheduled to be completed until at least 2015, Johnson's squad might be able to win a few games before their facilities are upgraded, too.

Johnson was hesitant to project too far into the future of this year's class.

But even the coach who just sat through a 21-loss season was cautiously optimistic about his incoming freshmen.

"Do I think these guys have a chance - since you guys want to hear me say it - to put us on the map? Or whatever the term is? Is that what you guys want me to say? I think they do," Johnson said. "Good players make good coaches so I feel good about it."

So now, with renovation plans developing further, Johnson will work closely with Del Conte and women's coach Jeff Mittie, giving his take on what would benefit his players.

But mostly, Johnson will keep his focus centered on the one area of Daniel-Meyer Coliseum that won't be renovated, the 94 feet from baseline to baseline.

"I want to be involved, but I'm from that old camp, that old school where that rim's 10 feet," he said. "People have given a lot of money, so let's play, let's win games first."


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