Nobody had a better preseason for TCU basketball than junior forward Jaedon LeDee.
Coach Jamie Dixon has raved about what he saw from LeDee in fall practices, believing LeDee was poised for a breakout season. But then LeDee was sidelined for a couple weeks due to COVID-19 protocols just before the season started.
That served as a setback, but LeDee has stayed patient and stayed with it. The payoff is starting to arrive late in the season. LeDee had a career game at No. 6 West Virginia on Thursday night.
LeDee scored 20 points with eight rebounds in 19 minutes in TCU’s 76-67 loss.
“I’m back in the groove,” LeDee told the Star-Telegram afterward. “I’m back to my normal self. I’m going to keep building and keep going hard.”
LeDee ranks among the few bright spots down the stretch as TCU (12-12, 5-10 Big 12) has fallen to the .500-mark.
LeDee missed TCU’s first three games due to the COVID protocols before returning for a solid season debut on Dec. 3 vs. Northwestern State. He scored 11 points, but didn’t score in double figures again until an 11-point performance at Missouri on Jan. 30.
LeDee’s biggest moment came when he knocked down the game-winner in TCU’s 81-78 victory over Oklahoma State last month. But Thursday marked the best game of his career.
LeDee flashed why he had so much hype leading into the season.
There was a stretch in the second half where he scored six straight points for TCU, including two dunks off offensive rebounds. LeDee also got to the free-throw line a career-high eight times, knocking down six of those attempts.
“I was out there just playing really,” LeDee said. “I didn’t know what my stats were or anything like that. I was just out there playing with my brothers, playing with my teammates. I was just trying to help any way I could. I’m always going to go out there and compete and go hard.”
That’s the type of post presence and mindset that Dixon and the coaching staff want to see from their big men. Dixon pointed to West Virginia winning the rebounding battle 43-35 as a determining factor in the loss.
But WVU only had a 20-18 rebounding edge in the second half as TCU outscored the Mountaineers 49-44. LeDee had seven of his eight rebounds in the second half.
At 6-foot-9, 240 pounds, LeDee has the build to become a force in the post. This is a guy who was a former four-star prospect coming out of The Kinkaid School in Houston. He started his college career at Ohio State before transferring to TCU.
LeDee was primarily a role player for the Frogs last season, averaging 2.7 points and 2.9 rebounds per game. Those numbers have jumped to 6.1 points and 4.0 rebounds a game this season.
“Before the game I said, ‘We’re going to get a big game from Jaedon,’” Dixon said. “I feel like he’s been playing better and better. He just needed to get his wind going again. He’s going to be a big part of what we’re doing here going forward.
“He’s scoring kind of how we hoped and anticipated.”
TCU will have its same COVID policies and protocols in place for fans when it plays host to No. 15 Texas on Sunday. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. at Schollmaier Arena. The women’s team is set to take on Texas at 1 p.m.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order earlier this week that will lift the state’s mask mandate and open businesses to 100% next Wednesday.
TCU remains in the process of assessing how to proceed under the new policies.
On the court, meanwhile, the men will be going for their first victory over a ranked team. The Frogs fell to 0-8 against ranked teams with the loss at WVU on Thursday night.