Measuring the progress of Tom Pritchard

  • 01/28/2010 7:43 am in

Remember when Tom Pritchard was the future?

No seriously, remember when he was the next prototype Indiana big man—not big or nimble enough to just dominate, but automatic to the point of getting his numbers every single night. Or at least that’s what he was going to be. Yea, that train has sort of sailed.

In a year that’s been up-and-down for Indiana basketball, Pritchard is like the kid in the last car on the roller coaster, getting the worst of every turn and the least out of every barrel roll.

Bad similes aside, it really has been a forgettable year for the big man from Westlake, Ohio. Pritchard wasn’t jaw-dropping last year, but he was consistent, and he had the distinct advantage of being a productive post player on a team almost completely void of them.

But now he has to share the frontcourt. There are other big bodies that Tom Crean can throw out on the floor, and suddenly Pritchard looks less like the next great hope and more like Sean Kline with two good knees. Minutes are down, fouls are up, points are down, fan displeasure is way, way up, and young Pritchard has too often looked like any combination of lost, timid, weak and confused. I’ll bet it won’t take 10 comments to find those words and more like it used to describe Pritchard following this post.

But is it fair? I mean, is it entirely his fault? Has Pritchard really fallen that far? Short answer: Probably not. Long answer: Glad you asked.

First, let’s be honest. No, Pritchard has not looked good through most of this year.

I got the chance to join the good folks over at the H-T (well, Dustin moreso than Korman [implied]) for their post-at Michigan ScoopTalk episode, and the first question Chris posed to me asked what Pritchard has been missing this year. The first and most obvious answer is confidence, Pritchard just hasn’t looked as assertive or as sure of himself as he did last year. Yes, his production tailed off as 2009 wound down, but that had far more to do with depth and his simply being worn down than with confidence.

And yes, it’s entirely fair to expect Pritchard to improve from one season to the next. That’s the evolution of basketball—of all sports—and Pritchard seems to be defying that process. Where we might run into problems is in the assumption that having extra big men on roster who could hold their own would help Pritchard, when it’s probably hurt him just as much.

I’ll admit, I’m as guilty as anyone. I figured Pritchard would be a mainstay in the IU offense this season. He had a year to get his fitness up, and yes, he was going to have some help down low. All of that = more points, rebounds and minutes from Tom Pritchard.

But in all honesty, I wonder if the sudden competition down low hasn’t hurt Pritchard more than it’s helped. I mean, consider what he’s now working with.

Christian Watford is easily the best of the bunch, although obviously he’s not a died-in-the-wool big. Watford is a comfortable ‘tweener, and the best overall player by some distance, which makes him the most adaptable and prolific in this offense. Then comes Bobby “The Situation” Capobianco, (I don’t understand) who’s probably cut Pritchard’s minutes as much as anybody, and Derek Elston, who has made enough impressive bench cameos to have some fans screaming for more him and less Pritchard.

Well, duh, you say, of course sharing court time with other talented post players will decline Pritchard’s production, and it surely has. But let’s also remember that Pritchard was a three-star prospect whose other offers came from Penn State and Miami (Ohio). He was a Kelvin Sampson project, a down-the-line starter who would have the time and protection-by-depth-chart to stay out of the glare until he was ready for it.

I understand many of you are getting tired of that sort of excuse, and I understand. But that doesn’t change the fact that Pritchard, like his team, is young and still in the midst of growth under most trying circumstances. It’s been a tough year for the big man—and I’m through trying to predict how this team will turn out, it leads me to dark places—but I think Pritchard deserves at least 12 more months to prove his mettle.

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  • RW

    I think that he shows flashes of improvement but with the foul problem always starting with him there is not much time to see it. I have heard Coach Crean many times say that he had the best or was the best in practice. I wish for him to master a ball fake / shot fake and then share it with Christian and Derek. With that we would easily be on the line alot more. I am not down on TP and I am sure he knows by now what everyone hopes for him and expects from him. So “Don’t worry son I’m behind ya..”, hang in there it will come. GO HOOSIERS!!

  • CreamandCrimson

    Good analysis and very fair. Pritchard is absolutely lacking confidence. I don't think he expects a single shot he puts up to go in.

    Just one thing, a train doesn't sail.

  • JerryCT

    Really , really fair analysis IMO. I keep wanting TP to shoot. I don't care if it is blocked, clanks, hits nothing or goes in the wrong basket as long as he tries to score.

    In his defense however he consistently sets a monster on-ball screen, hedges like no other big man in the B10, help D is very alert, bodies his man to enable our guard rebounds , gets steals and loose balls ……………he just does much more than maybe any other player over 6'5″ on our team.

    The mystery to me is why his offense is so undeveloped by now and why Crean does not install an offense where he sets off-ball screens for Watford or Jones

  • MillaRed

    Look at some of the numbers this kid posted his first 20 games. More big men or not, he has almost fallen off the map. He is not developing. He is going the wrong way. This is Coach Crean's responsibility, regardless of the reasoning.

    In the off-season, I would love to see him work on the ten footer and hit them at a 40% clip next year. He gets 5 clean looks a game and ends putting his head down and clanking or turns the ball over.

    We need him back if we are going to take the next step in 2011.

  • James

    your description of TP being Sampsons “down the road starter” is the exact way I have always seen him. Last year VJII and TP got thrown into the fire more than any of the other freshman IMO. VJIII obviously embraced the challenge and excelled with the added pressure. But you can tell that the progression of an undersized big man is much harder/longer than that of a “tweener” guard like VJ. Im all for hoping that TP comes around and I agree with you that it would be hard to judge a player like him until his Junior year.
    -but this is an unusual situation at IU, and players have to step up and he just hasnt done it. He should be allowed to struggle through it to a point but if it continues much longer I would hope he finds himself on the bench.

  • marcusgresham

    I've been as hard on Pritchard as anyone, but maybe JerryCT has it right—he's just being misued (and no, I'm not blaming Crean for this. He's got to put somebody in the spot and Pritchard is the best option.) Maybe he is more of a Brian Sloan/Kreigh Smith/Sean Kline kind of screen/defend/pick up the slop type of player who is being called upon to do things of which he isn't suited.
    MillaRed nailed it, too. Hit that 10-footer instead of trying to bull through traffic like a fat girl at a Black Friday sale. That will afford you the opportunity to make a drive later when they respect your ability from the mid-range.

  • kesims

    Agreed Jerry

    Although its not too noticeable…TP brings alot of intangibles to this team. I think we were all spoiled by output the first half of last season and it is now frustrating to watch him be so weak on O because we know hes capable of doing more….but his screens and hedges are second to none on this team right now and without him on the floor we get dominated on D so he is still very valuable to this team……that being said with the influx of talent over the next 2 yrs and the development of “the situation”….TP gets no playing time his last 2 yrs unless he develops an offensive game. “The situation” is his prototype…except a better shooter.. As long as his playing time stays up and he keeps building his confidence along with the offseason…i believe bobby c will eat up most of TP's minutes next year once he learns how to play solid d. And of course, I expect Derek Elston to continue to develop into a beast which wont help tom either

  • HoosierSmitty

    “that train has sailed” Really? Come on now…anyway…

    Where to start? The good or the bad…

    Pritchard isn't terrible, but he's close at this point.

    Good – I see Pritchard make some strong rebounds, hedge out and recover, and occasionally show a few flashes of skill.

    Bad – He can't even come close on free throws. It's ridiculous. He's inconsistent. While he might have a few decent moves every couple of games, he hasn't put together a solid game yet. Fouls are terrible. He gets a few bad calls now and then, but generally he's just in terrible position.

    Not his Fault – Do we even try and feed the post? Is this a result of his struggles or the cause of them? He's not getting near enough targets this season, and that will obviously hurt his effectiveness.

    I still hold out hope for Pritchard, but he needs another big body down there with him.

  • HoosierSmitty

    now that's a simile

  • GFDave

    Do trains sail? Do ships leave the station? As my daughter says, I'm soooo confused (vbg).

    Anyway, on to Pritch. He gives us a lot of non-stat line stuff as JerryCT has been pointing out for sometime. Solid picks, good hedges, strong defensive post position. But the kid has terrible hands and no shot. He needs to spend time improving both. If he could hit a 10 foot face-up jumper, then people would have to come out and guard him, leaving open that reverse lay-up that he is good at.

  • Josh

    Just as the triple threat position seems to be disappearing, unless you are running a Coach Knight motion offense, so to has shot faking and ball faking.
    I wish the Hoosiers would use these more. If you aren't athletic enough to flat out beat people, you have to use deception to keep the athleticism of other teams in check.
    Its difficult to watch teams that are have to be lead by such young men, but heady play and intelligence can really put a young team in a position to gain the upper hand over a team that is simply bigger and more athletic. Imagine us running off ball screens with Pritchard picking for Watford, Rivers screening Jones and Hulls pass faking one way, driving the lane the other, kicking a pass to Watford who bounce passes to Pritchard who turns and shot fakes his man, dribbles around, shot fakes the next defender and handing off to Watford for the jam.
    I know Crean is a solid ball coach. He and his staff deserve another year to start to show improvement with the offense. I really want to know what McCleod is teaching our big men.

  • jacobdetroy

    Was TP ever athletic?

  • aerialM

    my concern with Pritch is that he hit his ceiling last year and now he's just going to plateau. He gave us what he had last year, over-achieved & now he has settled back into who he might really be as a player in the B10. He was never going to be a star, but I agree with most people on here that the expectation was a guy who could anchor the front and be a 12/10 or 12/8 guy every game…but he looks lost. Sure he does little things and to start as much as he has, he must have some good weeks in practice, but I remember Crean calling him out before the season started for his conditioning, so it seems to me that maybe he started the season off in a funk and has never gotten through it. It does make me curious about our “big man” coach, coach McLeod and what the team does with Pritch, Bobby, Elston and Bawa…(also, could someone clue me in to why Bobby C has been handed the miniker of “the situation”? I missed that.)

  • Kreigh_Smiths_Short_Shorts

    A Kreigh Smith shout out! Thanks, buddy!

  • cooper

    Its not really his fault because expectations for him this year were too high. Last year's performance was fools gold. There were no other options so he got the ball more and shot more. Also, since IU wasn't in many games the other teams D wasn't all that focused. With more options on offense and more focus from the D we are seeing what his game really is.

    He has regressed offensively with the ball in his hands. He is fine setting picks but really I don't think his picks are very effective because you can see them coming from a mile away. Half the time the picks are set too high and its difficult for the guard to get to the lane. He also hasn't developed a roll with his pick. Last year he was hitting 10 foot jumpers. he should be able to roll off the pick and do the same.

    I'd rather see him stick around the basket and set picks for either Watford to get the ball low in the post or for a guard to hit a jumper.

    I understand guards get to the lane quite a bit on D but he has to at least get his hands up. I know he is afraid of getting fouls called but he often keeps his hands down and tries to let them run in to him. He needs to get his hands up. Same when he is guarding someone, he leans too much instead of jumping straight up with his hands up.

    He needs to go get rebounds, he is the tallest and biggest guy he needs to go get the ball off the boards.

  • kesims

    its from the show “jersey shore” on mtv. Not sure why it was given to him in the 1st place because hes nothing like the guy on the show but for some reason it still fits perfectly

  • J mac

    I hate to say this about Tom but if we had any decent bigs that were contributing on a regular basis he would be sitting on the bench. He is nothing but a role player and that is it. If coach can get a good big man then we will be fine if not we will probably be talking about this again next year.

  • Uncle Joey

    Fun Fact of the Day: Tom Pritchard actually has a negative vertical jump.

  • valpohistory

    While I'm no expert by any means, I'd say TP has improved from last year and I'll tell you why. I'd say he's improved because when he can actually stay on the floor, he rebounds the ball better than any of our bigs (except possibly Elston but he's got the added athleticism), actually plays the pick and roll pretty well, and he shows the knack for getting into decent spaces to get dump-off passes from driving and slashing guards to the bucket for an easy dunk.

    His biggest problem is that he can't stay on the floor! He picks up 1-2 cheap fouls and he has to sit on the bench. I really like Pritchard as a player but he has to move his feet and quit leaning into people with his body! He has to be the rebounding and under-neath the basket presence that IU HAS TO HAVE! He isn't the scorer that everyone saw in the first games of last season. He will never be the 20 ppg player everyone saw and now has come to expect from him every game. That's just not him. With maturity, as he's developing his game, he is becoming the low-post nasty big that will eat space and rebounds for us.

    I urge everyone not to consider his development from strictly an offensive perspective. If you look at points per game only, well duh everyone is gong to hate Pritchard and think he is the worst player in Indiana history and that TC can't develop anyone! However, look from the views I just presented and then consider his development. He has come a looooonngggg way from where he was last year. He moves his feet, keeps his hands parallel with his body when he's defending a shot in the post, and he will show the improvement that some are seeing. Coach Crean sees it, his staff sees it, but they get frustrated when he picks up those quick fouls and he can't show everyone else it. Tommy, stay out of foul trouble so everyone else can too, I BEG OF YOU! We'll be a far better team if you can stay on the court.

  • because it's Indiana

    Ironically, somtimes it looks like Pritchard IS a train trying to sail.

    I can't help but root for Tom. I'm still a believer. Everyone needs to remember that he stuck by us last year and we should return the favor.

  • Jason

    Pritchard is awful and would not play for over 60% of major conference teams. He did well last year at the beginning of the year against weak competition where he belongs. I am not sure why everyone got so excited about this guy last year but I never bought it. He can't make a layup and never gets more than 2 inches off the floor. His only move is his drop step and left handed layup against players that are smaller than he is, which is only against weak competition. This is why he was not heavily recruited out of high school. The WORST thing about him and the dumbest play in college basketball is when he hedges out way too far on the ball screen instead of misdirecting the ball handler and getting back. He picks up the dumbest fouls and kills us.

  • pbrowning

    TP's biggest problem to me is he can not jump more then 2 or 3 inches off the floor – thus all the defensive fouls when his hands touch the elbow of the guy whose shot he is trying to defend. Additionally I'd agree with those who say TP is being forced to fill a spot is not correct for his abilities – TP shouldbe playing the 4 spot instead of the 5 spot, but CTC does not have a better option for the 5 spot. TP gets it by elimination vs. qualification.

  • downings5th

    Osterman-

    Your writing is intoxicating and fresh….I certainly missed your style. I agree with your Pritch analysis…It begs the question on how he would have progressed under Sampson..I always believed DJ White's game catapulted(especially his confidence on the court) under the teachings of KS.

  • GFDave

    I was listening to Fisch do a game and chatting with the ITH/Scoop gang. All of sudden Fisch put the phrase “The Situation” and Capo's name very near each other and it clicked a little with some chatters. It really hasn't caught much momentum though, I would expect it will soon die for lack of legs. These things either work or they don't.

  • kesims

    you mean it has nothing to do with the guy named “the situation” on the mtv show?

  • chitown

    I agree Jason, the hedging by big men on guards is ridiculous and Pritchard and Capo are 2 of the worst in college basketball at it. I do not see why we can't just teach them to continue to move there feet with the ball handler blocking any drive. Mostly what happens is there is still time to recover by both of our players anyway, preventing the drive is the most important. We seem to flat out run out and throw a leg or try to block the defender from even getting around us, which is by the definition a 'blocking' foul. Even worse, we are doing this with our big men whom we already have a tough time getting production out of them, thus putting more fouls on them and giving the other team more unecessary fouls by us away from the basket which keeps foul shooting at the opponents advantage.

  • GFDave

    It absolutely does have to do with the Jersey Shore, that's where the humor of it is. Fisch had no idea about that though.

  • MillaRed

    Weak competition eh?

    Nov 24, 2008 @ Notre Dame 14 points, 6 boards
    Dec 6, 2008 vs Gonzaga 13 points, 6 boards
    Jan 13, 2009 @ Ohio St 16 points, 11 boards
    Feb 21, 2009 @ Purdue 12 points, 8 boards

    If you look back over that timeframe, I imagine you would be lucky to find 8 Big Ten players that put up those numbers against that level of competition. I just don't beleive it was a fluke.

    He isn't playing well I give you that. But he CAN do it. He already has. We just need to figure out how to get him back.

  • Jason

    First of all, he only put up a double double in one of those games so I don't really consider those GREAT games. Any time you only have one big and he plays almost the whole game you are going to put up those kind of numbers. He is so limited by his body I compare him to Sean Kline and Mike Roberts. If they were on the team last year they would've put up those numbers. We need to forget about him becoming an impact player and accept that he is and will always be a below average role player. NO MORE

  • MillaRed

    Well said Ziggy

  • MillaRed

    That's good stuff Chronic. I think you make an excellent point. I'm beginning to think Pritch did squat to improve his game over last summer. What he needs is a fire lit under is backside. He sure doesn't look like he's in better basketball shape this year. I think he could be good with a little dedication.

  • Vslice

    I dont know whats wrong with Pritch, but he has lost confidence, moves, all of the above. I dont see how he worked on anything over the summer. He has not included any additional moves this year such as a drop step/step back shot, baby hook, his weak hand…. Last year players weren't familiar with his moves but towards the end of the year guys were hip to what he was doing. He has air balled free throws, picked up stupid fouls, and honestly looks lost. I really hope he puts some time in the gym this summer or this could be what we see from Tommy for the rest of his time at IU. If this is all he's got we are wasting a scholarship on him and he sets us back a bit.

  • ziggysane

    Everything pointed to Tom improving this year (e.g., not having the burden of being the only post presence, sharing time with other bigs, a year of experience); however, he has regressed and although he is still young that's not an excuse for regression. Plenty of kids take steps forward while participating on young teams. Youth works as an excuse for some of IU's issues, but not for Tom Pritchard. Look at Verdell Jones III for example. He is also a sophomore who has more talented guards around him, less of a burden when it comes to points, rebounds, assists, etc. He is able to play more productive minutes because of the cast around him (like Tom) and he has improved (unlike Tom). Verdell and Tom are in very similar situations. Tom suffers from lack of ability, face it he is limited, lack of confidence and perhaps lack of quality coaching. He no longer suffers from inexperience.

  • BaseballBuc

    I remember back to last year, when the coaching staff said that there was no reason why Tom Pritchard couldn't be as good as Luke Harangody. Obviously, he is no where near in the same universe as Harangody. It's just so frustrating watch him play with the lack of rebounding, his only defense is to foul, and contributing almost nothing on the offensive end. I don't want to say it, but it looks as if he did nothing over the summer to improve his game. Tom Crean said during the summer that Tom Pritchard had to get in shape to compete. You want your big men to constantly add things to their game, like a jump shot, a hook shot, or a different post move. Not only did he not add any aspects to his game, HE STILL CAN'T MAKE HIS LAYUPS CONSISTENTLY. I have faith in Tom for the future, but it is running thin.

  • downings5th

    Osterman-

    Your writing is intoxicating and fresh….I certainly missed your style. I agree with your Pritch analysis…It begs the question on how he would have progressed under Sampson..I always believed DJ White's game catapulted(especially his confidence on the court) under the teachings of KS.

  • IUMIKE1

    Just as we are stuck for the time being with how this team plays we are stuck with TP playing the way TP is, for now, but hopefully not for ever.(bust some serious a$$ this offseason on your off hand and shot young man) Since his numbers are different this year maybe we should examine how some of the factors that have to do with him are different.
    Teammates. Since there are more options on offense now maybe he scored more simply because he was on the floor as much as he was and was one the best options we had at the time. I would be very interested in how many shots he averaged per game last year and what percentage of the total number of shots taken by us as a team last year were by him and then compare that to this year. Simply put it is easier to do almost anything better if you do it more often.
    Fouls. This one really makes me scratch my head. We are deeper and have more experience, talent and options then we did last year at the guard spot which would make me think that he should not have to put himself in a position that causes him to pick up fouls as much as he did last year but it “seems” like he is in more and quicker foul trouble this year than last year.
    Rebounding. We have to have our bigs, as CTC put it, carve out space, AND get rebounds and not just block someone out so that our guards can have a better chance of getting rebounds. TP playing as many minutes as he does and only getting 2 or 3 rebounds or even worse getting 1 or none is just not going to get it done. The big on our team that is getting the most minutes should more often than not be our leading rebounder in my opinion and one of our guards should be our leading rebounder for a game only once in a great while.
    Verical. TP has not been exactly blessed in this part of his game. He seems to really struggle with his shot because of this at times which in turn exposes the fact that he, for the most part, is not able to do much of anything with his off hand. Once again our other options are just as good if not better than him in this aspect and they have not had the benefit of a full year of playing college bball or a full offseason of work as TP has.
    JerryCT I can tell by your comments that you watch the game in a way that is very similar to the way that I do and as it should be as in you watch the whole court and not just where the ball happens to be and I agree with alot of what you say and I take your comments alot more seriously than alot of the other posts that make it onto this blog so I have tried to make it a point to watch certain things that you have spoke about more closely. One of those things being TP's play as a whole and while I think maybe how I feel about TP's play is probably not as bad as what I have thought in the past I am still of the mind that with where we are as a team I feel like TP has to start doing more than just one thing better or we are better off giving more and more of his minutes to someone that gives us some things that he either will not or can not give us. In the long run this is going to pay off more than having him continue to play the way he does. A good overall game once in a while is not worth the trade off IMHO. Once again IMHO what we gain from having someone that the other team sees as a threat to score from more than 3 feet from the basket or better yet someone that they see as a threat to score from behind the arc more than outweighs what we give up in the screening and defensive departments plus keeps them from sagging back and clogging the middle. (that particular point and Rivers is another whole blog in itself) Maybe I wouldn't feel this way if our other 2 options were not freshman almost as good as TP is as a sophmore and we were not where we are overall as a team that is in the middle of a major rebuilding process.
    Here's to hoping that all of our bigs, including Bawa, get so much better by the end of the year and over the offseason we are debating who should be playing how much because they are all contributing so much more than they were.

  • As I've said waaay too many times during the live chats, Pritch is just like Elmer Fudd: he may go his entire life without ever hitting a bunny. But for his own point-blank misses, he wouldn't have 1/2 his career rebounds. And if his offensive ineptitude weren't difficult enough to stomach, his defensive presence is softer than Gumby in the paint.

    After scratching my head this whole season, contemplating Tom's regression, I can only conclude his youth is less responsible for his season's slide than his uninspired motivation. While his rebounding production and post activity seemed to have ticked up a bit since Capo stole his starts (deservedly & for the better of our future, I say), I've yet to see much, if anything, to justify his minutes over those on the bench with a seemingly higher ceiling. Sadly, that's the upside of my opinion of him.

    Most often, I believe he's the biggest snizz to ever put on an Indiana jersey. The dude's big: 6'9″, 250-ish. More than big enough to exert himself in the paint, on both ends of the floor, if he'd just take a little pride in putting on the candy stripes and playing underneath those beautiful banners. It's time for him to put away forever the days of dominating Westlake's open gym & demonstrating that he's deserving of not only his minutes, but also his scholarship at IU. I'd say he's got about 12 games to prove his sophmore slump isn't the result of a lazy man's lurch.

  • Dear Tom,
    Go up strong and quit putting the ball on the floor.
    Signed,
    One die hard IU fan.

  • MillaRed

    Well Jason I hope for the sake of the Hoosier nation you are wrong. We have this guy for another 2 1/2 seasons. I have hope the old Tom comes back.

    I have a hard time believing the numbers he put up early last year were because the team was worse. That doesn't make any sense. Dumes was jacking 20 shots a game. TP was just better. He was confident and looked like he was having fun out there. Two things that sure as hell aren't there right now unfortunately.

    I understand why everyone is frustrated with Pritchard. Sometimes he shows flashes of what he was last year. But the rest is full of bad hands, turnovers and hesitancy. It's hard to watch. I think he might be coming around a little though. He seems better than he was in the first 3rd of the season.

  • MillaRed

    Well said Ziggy

  • MillaRed

    That's good stuff Chronic. I think you make an excellent point. I'm beginning to think Pritch did squat to improve his game over last summer. What he needs is a fire lit under his backside. He sure doesn't look like he's in better basketball shape this year. I think he could be good with a little dedication.

  • MikeinNC

    How's his work ethic and fitness level? How is his behavior off-court and in the classroom?

  • iubasketballfan

    pritchard could get away with all the mistakes he made last year because they had no one else to put in now that they have a guy or 2 behind him its difficult for him to get away with mistakes…but the first half of last year he was a totally different player than he is now i dont know what is up with him.
    The hoosiers need to land zeller and Aj hammons those guys together would be unstopable!!!

  • outanames

    I think a lot of Pritchard's problems are due to his lack of aggressiveness. In turn, his lack of agressiveness is surely hindered by the fact the refs are keying on him at both ends of the floor. In effect, Tom does not play with a lot of smarts, however I think it rather evident the refs have him in their sights, something no player should be hamstrung with well into his second year of playing. I think Crean invites some of this with his passive attitude towards the refs in comparison to other coaches in the Big-10 who are on them from the opening tip until the final whistle.