The biggest victory Trent Johnson will get in his first year as TCU coach came one month before his debut season even begins.
Johnson landed a commitment from Karviar Shepherd, a 6-foot-10 center ranked No. 43 in the Class of 2013 by Rivals.com. Shepherd chose TCU over higher-profile Big 12 schools Texas, Kansas and Baylor.
"Coach Johnson built a relationship with him and that's what really won the whole situation," Dallas Urban Elite coach Jazzy Hartwell told Rivals affiliate PurpleMenace.com
"Karviar has been through a lot in life and you have got to understand that and I think coach Johnson really talked to him, just talked to him. There was something coach Johnson was saying to him that got to him and that closed the deal."
For a TCU program that last made the NCAA tournament 14 years ago and will begin play in the rugged Big 12 next month, the addition of Shepherd is very significant.
It represents the first step toward acquiring the talent necessary to become competitive in the Big 12. It suggests that the move to the Big 12 will enable the program to recruit at a higher level than it had been in the Mountain West or Conference USA. And it offers early validation for the decision to pluck Trent Johnson from LSU even though the Tigers program had stagnated under the former Stanford and Nevada coach.
Shepherd alone won't make TCU basketball relevant in the Big 12, but he certainly appears to be a difference maker. The 6-foot-9 big man runs the floor well, has a good motor and boasts a capable mid-range jump shot out to 15 feet or so.
With guards Hank Thorns and J.R. Cadot having graduated from last year's surprisingly successful 18-win team, TCU has little chance of finishing any higher than a spot or two above the cellar in its first Big 12 season. If Shepherd's commitment leads future prospects to consider the Horned Frogs more seriously, perhaps it won't always be that way.