TCU injuries led to losses and walk-on tryouts. Now the Frogs hope to win again

After a record-setting open to the season, serious injuries to four top players on Texas Christian University’s women’s basketball team led mostly to losses. The Horned Frogs’ roster was so depleted, the coach invited any students to try out. Is it enough to help restore the victories?

By Bill Zeeble, KERA NewsFebruary 22, 2024 9:16 am, , ,

From KERA News:

On Feb. 10, pre-game excitement reverberated through TCU’s Schollmaier Arena, where the once-winning Horned Frogs hosted the 7th ranked Texas Longhorns.

The Frogs’ record-setting 14 straight opening wins ended with the new year after serious injuries took out four star players – Sedona Prince, Madison Conner, Jaden Owens and DaiJa Turner.

Two losses were forfeits because the team, with only 6 players, couldn’t safely put a squad on the court. Desperate, TCU immediately held walk-on tryouts, a first for this school’s team.

Pre-med sophomore, Mekhayia Moore, was among the four who made the Division 1 team.

“I was like, this is probably never going to happen again,” said Moore, taking a break from an off-day team practice. “The least I can do is get, like a little taste of college basketball and especially at the D-1 level, which has been really amazing so far.”

Amazing because Moore played ball more than half her life, including for state champ Brownsboro High School, in Texas. But the academic stand-out thought she’d left team play behind. She hadn’t practiced in months, if not more than a year. She and the other walk-ons knew their skills weren’t equal to their teammates’. Their passion, however,was. Just ask guard Madison Conner, one of TCU’s stars who got injured.

“These girls have been great. They come in every day and work,” said Conner, practicing for the first time since her injury. “I mean, they just help me with the workout, so, these girls didn’t have the opportunity that most of us had to come and be on a scholarship at a Big 12 school. So… just seeing how much they love the game and genuinely just want to be part of the team.”

TCU’s Madison Conner takes a shot on an off-day as she recovered from an injury that forced her to miss games. Horned Frogs coach Mark Campbell is in the background.
Bill Zeeble / KERA News

TCU coach Mark Campbell wasn’t sure what he’d see at the try-outs. After all, school was well underway, class schedules were set, and any hopefuls were out of practice if not out of shape. But he says 40 to 50 young women tried out.

“Every one of them that showed up to try to make the team, they sold out. They were diving on the floor. They were just beet red,” recalled Campbell in his office just before a team practice. “They were competing. It was really refreshing to see the joy and passion for the opportunity they were trying to earn. It was like American Idol.”

At least the Division 1 college basketball version.

In the very first game with walk-ons, TCU actually won. But the team has barely won since. The role of the walk-ons, said coach Campbell, is to relieve the regulars during games, and keep them sharp in practice.

“Practice is how you prepare for your opponent. Practice is how you compete and get ready,” Campbell said. “You can’t look at it as, Are they in the game playing a huge role in helping us win?’ No. Are they in practice flat out competing and giving us everything they’ve got to prepare us for the game? Yes.”

In that recent match against the Texas Longhorns? It was a 3-point game at the half. Horned Frog fans were hopeful. But in the end Texas wore down — and blew out — TCU by more than 20 points.

“The last two games, we’ve struggled to hit shots, but that’s the hand we’re dealt,” Campbell said after the loss. “We got to make 3s in order to stay in these ball games. Right now, there is no other option,”

Freshman Piper Davis is just happy to be along for the ride. She’s another walk-on who thought her basketball days ended after she left her state champ high school team in Boise, Idaho, for college in Fort Worth.

“Coach Campbell said make the most of it cause this never happens,” Davis said. “And so I just decided I’m going to play my best and go out there and have fun doing something I thought was over and see where it goes.”

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