Ah, the curious case of Tom Pritchard. Ah, the cliche of using odd, catchy movie titles as ledes. Which one shall we talk about today?
I choose Pritchard. So let’s talk about Pritchard, the Ohio native whose career started so well but hasn’t really taken off since, at least not in the way we expected it would. I’ll throw out what is a rather shocking stat, brought to my attention by old friend Jordan Cohen during the production of our season preview magazine:
Over his first 16 career games, Pritchard had five double-doubles, including two in his first two, making him at that time the only Indiana freshman ever to accomplish that.
Number of double-doubles in the 46 games since? Zero. Not one. Never even broke double digits in rebounding last year. Pritchard committed 98 fouls last year, better than three per game, and fouled out four times. Both were team highs.
So why am I feeling upbeat about Tom Pritchard in 2010? Well, for a number of reasons.
First, without trying to be clever, Pritchard has little else to do but get better. With a few rare exceptions, (Purdue, Bryant, Howard) Pritchard looked various combinations of slow, sloppy and lacking confidence last year. As the pressure to perform turned up, his performances often seemed to get worse, until he was essentially relegated to a secondary role in the offense. And this from a kid many thought was a primary part of IU’s future down low.
Second, I’ve gotten to see Pritchard up close a couple of times this offseason, and he just looks like he’s in better shape. Much better. He looks slimmer and at the same time more muscular. We won’t pretend that an extra say, 8-10 pounds of playing weight were the difference between night and day last season, but when they’re not there and they used to be, there will be a discernible difference.
Third, while I don’t believe in chalking up a poor season to some unquantifiable cliche like a “sophomore slump,” I do believe in experience. Tom Pritchard has it. All the criticism, the struggles, often it helps a player to have to go through that, and learn the value of always improving.
Fourth, and consider this one most important, we shouldn’t forget that there was a time when Pritchard offered something we all really liked. He was tough down low, and Tom Crean loves to talk about his impressive footwork.
Well, you say, he has to learn to play without fouling. Yes he does. A lot of young frontcourt players do.
But he was supposed to be better with more help around him last year. To what help, exactly, were you referring? Christian Watford, who should barely have been playing post himself? Bobby Capobianco, whose problems with fouls were nearly as bad as Pritchard’s? Derek Elston, whose defensive deficiencies kept him from serious playing time until the end of the year?
More big bodies doesn’t automatically translate into a more balanced post. Pritchard, like Indiana as a whole, is in a much better position to thrive this year than last. And so perhaps he will.
Best-case scenario: Pritchard regains his old confidence and cuts down on the fouls, winning plenty of playing time and pushing Guy-Marc Michel at the five.
Worst-case scenario: He basically repeats last year, and a bigger, stronger Elston and a 7-foot-1 option in the post, Guy Marc-Michel, push him even further out of the rotation.
Filed to: Tom Pritchard