by Emily Orthwein
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Senior forward Adrick McKinney has shown tremendous strides on the court for the TCU men's basketball team this season. His gains have caught the attention of coaches and spectators alike as the Horned Frogs play in their inaugural season as members of the Big 12 Conference.
TCU head coach Trent Johnson has singled out McKinney more than any other Frog this season for his consistency and the gains he has made on the court. So, what exactly has McKinney done differently this year than in previous years?
"I just tuned in and listened," McKinney said. "Coach Johnson and Coach [Brent] Scott have taught me a lot of things I didn't know. They have been coaching this game for a long time and have even taught NBA players. I have learned this season that if you just listen and work hard, things can go your way."
McKinney appeared in 32 games last season in his first season on campus after joining the squad from Angelina College, a junior college in East Texas. He earned starts in each of TCU's first 11 games, but, despite finishing the campaign ranking second on the team in rebounding, fifth in steals and seventh in scoring, he eventually lost his starting spot midway through the season. Adjusting to Division I basketball proved to be difficult.
Things have changed this season for McKinney through the help of hard work, dedication and the extra push from a new coaching staff. In 23 games, including 14 starts, he has averaged a team-best 6.6 rebounds per game and is third among Frogs in scoring with an 8.1-point average. He has two double-doubles, including a breakout 10-point, 20-rebound performance Dec. 4 against Houston. The 20 boards are tied for most by a Big 12 player this season.
McKinney places much of the credit for his improvement on the shoulders of Johnson, who was named TCU's new head coach in April. Johnson trains his team in a way that pushes players out of their comfort zones, according to McKinney, who believes he always wants his players to strive for their maximum effort. The best way they can do that is to never become complacent.
"Coach Johnson makes us push ourselves harder than we think we can go," McKinney said. "Some people can't take it, but I prefer that style of coaching. I try to learn something each day so I can push myself to be the best player I can be."
With it being his senior year, McKinney has overcome distractions to which many student-athletes his age would have succumbed. He has focused his extra energy towards basketball to great results. He also has taken on a leadership role for the younger players on TCU's roster.
"I just try to tell (the younger players) how serious they need to take the game," McKinney said. "When I was younger, I didn't always have that approach. The more you mature and the more years you put in, you learn to handle yourself the right way in order to become a better player."
McKinney passes along to his teammates the advice that he was given as a young player by his coaches at Angelina, the same advice reinforced by his current coaches at TCU.
"They wouldn't let me slack," McKinney said. "Every time I thought I was doing something well, they told me to always strive for better. There is always something to improve on for both yourself and the team."
Though he is a native of Fort Worth, the thought of playing for TCU never crossed his mind when he was looking to take his game to the college level.
"I had some Division I looks out of high school, but the coach at Angelina, Todd Neighbors, was very persistent in me playing for him," McKinney said. "He thought it would be the best route for me where I could develop my game and land at a big school. I took my visit to Angelina and fell in love with it. It helped make me the player and person I am today."
Now that he is playing closer to home, McKinney has a cheering section of at least 10 family members at every home game, including his son, Adrick Jr.
"It feels wonderful to play right here in my hometown," McKinney said. "That was one of the major factors in me choosing TCU. My family wanted me to come back home, and I wanted to be here. It's great that my son is able to watch me play."
So what is up next for McKinney following his senior season with the Frogs? Graduating with a degree in communications is first up this summer. If things go right from there, maybe he will find himself with a roster spot in a professional league.
"Hopefully, I will have the chance to take my game to a new level and play professionally," McKinney said. "If that doesn't work out, then I want to use my degree in the sports industry. Sports has always been my passion."
Whether on the court or in the working world, McKinney will always know that he graduated from TCU leaving his hardworking attitude and dedication behind as an example for younger Horned Frogs for years to come.