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Frogs' leap: TCU plans to build upon last year's success

Last year at TCU, head coach Raegan Pebley led the Horned Frogs to the postseason in her first year. And even though this is a different team, Pebley expects to win and take the next step.

Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas, TX -- A new season awaits the Horned Frogs, who still have the taste of the Women's National Invitational Tournament lingering about.

Making history is an understatement.

TCU finished third last season in the Big 12 Conference making them just one of four conference programs to reach the postseason in 13 of the last 15 seasons alongside Baylor, Oklahoma, and Iowa State.

To top that off, the sweetest victory over Stephen F. Austin in the opening round of the Women's NIT was the first postseason win since 2008. The postseason momentum ended in a down to the wire overtime loss against Southern Miss 77-73.

"I think you have to plan for success. We're really process driven here...we don't focus on an end goal; we don't focus on an uncontrollable thing. We just focus on everyday -- get better," says head coach Raegan Pebley.

The first year coach has a history of rebuilding programs and launching them into the postseason. Pebley led Fresno State to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in 2013-14 and helped grow Utah State into a winning program.

During her first year with the Horned Frogs, Pebley is the only coach in program history to reach the postseason in year one and has the most wins by a first-year coach.

It's evident what Pebley can and will do for this program. All we have to do is sit back and watch the magic happen.

With players like forward Chelsea Prince and guard Natalie Ventress, now out of the picture, this team has been rebuilding all summer long.

TCU welcomes seven new faces to the court for the 2015-16 season four of which are freshmen and three transfers. The trio of transfers are forward Destynee Hives-McCray from SMU, Amy Okonkwo from USC, and Toree Thompson from Ole Miss. Each new addition brings crucial elements such as size and power, that will truly make a difference down the stretch.

However, a new team calls for new challenges.

"They haven't hit fatigue which is where people can get irritated with each other. But I just feel right now what they've based their chemistry on is going to sustain us through those dog days of the season. And they based their chemistry on...having an unconditional collective commitment of being our best." said Pebley.

TCU returns three starters and nine letter winners from last season's 18-14 squad. Two of those starters, All-American Zahna Medley, and All-Conference candidate Veja Hamilton, welcome the new faces with open arms and embrace what each player has to offer to the team.

"We have bigger size, so that means bigger and better rebounders which we struggled with last season...they will help us out a lot," said Medley.

The two-time All-Conference candidate looks to have a breakout senior year to cap off last season's exhilarating run. Medley led TCU in scoring averaging 15.6 points per game and is among the nation's top scorers with nearly 1,500 points on the board. The Springfield native also set the single-season record in free-throw percentage.

Hamilton is also motivated to end her career with the Horned Frogs on a high note. Right behind Medley, Hamilton was the second leading scorer with 11.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.

Medley and Hamilton, plus the new size and strength additions down in the paint, equals a new and improved level of competitiveness for TCU women's basketball. The goal is still the same: get back to the championship and win.

Speaking of competitiveness, just take a look at their schedule. Eight of ten teams in the Big 12 conference reached the postseason last year. And let's not forget the Horned Frogs will face a physical Texas A&M and Notre Dame.

However, the preparation is the same according to Pebley.

"We have to be consistent in how we prepare. We can't be focused on the other teams uniform or the scoreboard. We have to be focused on [the] next play, next possession..."

"We're going to focus on this non-conference period...one game at a time," said Coach Pebley.

If Pebley could coach this team into winning their first postseason game since 2008 in year one, then just imagine what will unfold this season. The Horned Frogs are on the hunt to get back to the Women's NIT and win it all.

"We definitely have to play well in the preseason. I think that was kind of one of the factors that determined where we ended up in the postseason. I think it's just about consistency throughout the year...we raised our level of play towards the end when we should've had it from the beginning," said Hamilton.

"Starting off strong, maintaining confidence and intensity, and just knowing how to finish games. We struggled with that a little bit last season...finishing meaningful games we should win by double digits," said Medley.

The formula for a repeat of postseason success is brewing at TCU. And with the debut of the Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena this season featuring $72 million in renovations, the ladies in purple and white gear up for yet another exciting season in a state-of-the-art facility.

The Horned Frogs open the regular season against Sam Houston State at home Friday, November 13 and will open conference play Wednesday, December 30 in Lubbock against Texas Tech.

Get ready to clean your ears ladies and gentlemen; TCU women's basketball is ready to make some noise this season.