By David Cohen
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Collegiate student-athletes know the rigors of their role on campus. Balancing schoolwork and competition is enough, but what if they have had four surgeries in their career?
TCU forward Amric Fields has experienced it all as the Horned Frogs’ lone fifth-year senior, combining his role as a versatile 6’9 three-point shooter with the experiences he has had both on and off the court.
“If I could choose one word [to describe the journey] it would be challenging,” he said. “But I love it because it has made me the man I am today.”
Fields, the Mountain West Sixth Man of the Year in 2011-12, experienced his first and biggest fate in front of his home crowd in a Nov. 15, 2012, matchup with SMU his junior year.
“I looked at the SMU bench as I was going down and some of their faces were turned away and looked squeamish,” Fields said. “In my head I knew it wasn’t good at all. I actually thought I broke my leg in half.”
All of the pain Fields endured through his one-year, nine-day hiatus from basketball came to a conclusion in time for TCU’s contest at Washington State on Nov. 24, 2013, which the team scheduled on its way to the Great Alaskan Shootout a few days later. He would not disappoint.
Fields entered the game prior to the first media timeout, and the Horned Frogs promptly went on a 14-0 run. He even scored seven of his 16 points in that frame. He also blocked the would-be tying layup with two seconds left to seal the team’s win over a Pac-12 foe.
Was he nervous about returning in what would be the most dramatic game of his career?
“A lot of people don’t know this about me, but before games and even practices sometimes I get really nervous,” Fields said. “My hands start sweating and I’m tingling.”
The year would not be that much easier for Fields or his team, as the Horned Frogs dealt with infinite injuries, especially to its post players for long periods of time. Three games after his triumphant return, adversity struck again in a game against Harvard for the Great Alaskan Shootout championship.
“He deflected a ball and got an injury that required surgery,” TCU Director of Sports Medicine Chris Hall said. “We put a screw into top of his hand and protected with external pad on top of hand. He wore that for four weeks, and we took it off.”
Fields also had two chondral defects while recovering from the initial ACL/MCL procedure, the first to repair a big bone in upper leg and make sure bone doesn’t grind on bone and the second in a completely different location.
“The ligament aspect of the [original ACL] injury was that there was a second problem we didn’t pick up for several months after,” Hall said. “Once it was identified, we could fix it, and pick back up with his rehab program from the original injury.”
Fields attests his recovery to Hall and the Ben Hogan Sports Medicine staff in Fort Worth.
“C-Hall is very good at testing my limits, not only emotionally but physically,” he said. “We have butted heads like brothers do, and he’s really good at testing me. That’s why I love him.”
Hall expresses his own gratitude for the Ben Hogan trainers as well.
“They have fine tuned some of the biomechanical movements to take pressure off both good and bad knee,” he said. “He’s a big boy and hopefully he will continue to enjoy his senior year as we move into conference.”
TCU head coach Trent Johnson, a 16-year veteran of being at the helm at four programs, voices plenty of optimism for his longtime forward.
“His role on the team is huge, and he’s a guy who I feel every time I turn around something bad has happened,” he said. “But he’s stayed the course and we don’t need to be writing off his career right now because his career is not over. He has a lot of basketball to be played.”
One of the more unique aspects of the lanky Fields’ play is his penchant for shooting three-pointers, amounting to 200 attempts in his career.
“When I was in high school, I was probably 6’2 or 6’3 my sophomore year,” he said. “My junior year came back 6’6 and 6’7, so I had a big growth spurt. Back when I was in middle school, I played the two or point guard.”
Fields also credits his high school coach for instilling the mental motivation and his father for carrying it out by taking him to the gym nightly to shoot. It was also during that adolescent time that he and his family realized his potential to take basketball to college, where he could be the first member of his family to graduate.
Fields walked the stage on Dec. 20 for his degree.
“It’s huge,” he said. “Not only for me, but for my family to see how hard they have worked and how many sacrifices they made growing up, it’s a big deal. About a month ago, it really set in.”
The Horned Frogs are 12-0 for the first time ever, and on Dec. 22 entered the top-25 for the first time since the 1998-99 season. Fields, who admits to being called the “old man” by his teammates, is more than willing to have his final home games as loud as possible.
“I feel like everyone is more excited about basketball, and not just because we are winning,” he said. “Now that we are winning some games this year, the campus is going to be alive, the student section is going to be jumping, and people are going to be excited to see us play.”