Redshirt freshman returns to court

Redshirt freshman returns to court

Watch a slideshow and hear Tauscher tell his story It was an injury many thought would end his career for good.

Luke Tauscher was a touted prospect coming out of Southwest High School standing at 6 feet 11 inches tall.

The Fort Worth native was tabbed as one of the state’s top 50 players following a season in which he averaged 16 points, 11 rebounds and seven blocks a game. He even decided to stay close to home, giving an early commitment to be a Horned Frog.

This is what he wanted.

And then, as quick as the release of one of Tauscher’s three-point attempts, it went sour.

Men’s basketball head coach, Neil Dougherty, said Tauscher had only practiced two or three days before suffering a back injury that would cost him his true freshman season in purple.

“It didn’t look good at all,” Dougherty said. “There was a chance he may have never been able to play again, but our focus was to stay positive.”

Tauscher said he thought the pain was just from back spasms, something he had been dealing with his whole life.

“My back had been hurting for a while,” Tauscher said. “Then, the doctors said I had popped a disc loose, and it had pinched a nerve, making me lose 6 percent of my left leg muscle.”

Tauscher, a Fort Worth native who was recruited as part of the team’s 2006-07 recruiting class, had to sit out his first season. So as it was, Tauscher watched from the sidelines.

The cheers he heard booming from the bleachers weren’t for him, but for his teammates.

“It was a kick in the butt,” Tauscher said. “I was told in Christmas 2006 that I would not be playing that season.”

But he stuck by his teammates and watched helplessly from the sidelines as the team trudged through a 13-17 campaign last season.

But now, following back surgery in the offseason and grueling physical therapy, his year of waiting is a thing of the past.

“I learned to be real patient,” Tauscher said. “There was no other choice for me.”

Although he still goes through physical therapy, the doctors have cleared him to play.

The center, who started playing the sport when he 4, said he loves the competitive aspect of basketball.

His mom, Jane Tauscher, said she’s very proud of him, but his play on the court still makes her worry before every game.

“I always get nervous,” she said. “I always get a stomach ache before every game.”

As tall as he is, he said he’s gotten used to it and said it’s genetic. He said his parents are both over 6 feet.

“Honestly, I’m used to my height,” Tauscher said. “But it helps – I’m not going to lie, it helps.”

Dougherty said the team was lucky to have Tauscher back after only a year. He said he made sure Tauscher felt like part of the group emotionally.

“He’s getting better each day,” Dougherty said. “Obviously, he’s not in the same shape as everyone, but he’s closing in the gap.”

In his first two games in purple and white, Tauscher has given the team a low-post presence off the bench on both ends of the floor. He is averaging 6.5 points and eight rebounds a game, highlighted by a team-high 12-rebound performance in TCU’s 76-49 win against Rice on Tuesday.

Jason Ebie, a sophomore point guard from Houston, was Tauscher’s roommate last year. He said he looked out for him off the court.

“He lived like an animal,” Ebie said jokingly. “But really, I would make him make his bed. I felt for his siblings.”

Ebie, who was also injured during his freshman season last year, said it was ironic that he and Tauscher, who were the first two players to sign as part of the team’s 2006-07 recruiting class, were hurt.

“I felt for him,” Ebie said. “I mean, I was hurt but I knew I was eventually going to get to play, for him it was unclear.”

Ebie said he admired Tauscher for sticking it out for a year.

“I don’t know how he did it,” he said.

As the 2007-08 season moves on, it looks like Tauscher’s patience might just pay off after all.