Final stats (36 games): 1.3 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 0.4 apg, 55% FG in 9.9 minutes per game
Tom Pritchard never had it easy during his time in Bloomington. He and Verdell Jones, who we looked at yesterday, had to sacrifice more than any other players on the Indiana roster.
Pritchard said he originally committed to Indiana because he wanted an opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament. Even when it became clear it would be quite a while before the Hoosiers were back in the Big Dance — and once it became clear his role would be much different than the one he played in high school — Pritchard decided to honor his commitment.
His minutes dipped from 29 per game his freshman year to 19.9 as a sophomore, 18.2 as a junior, and only 9.9 this season. With the addition of coveted big man Cody Zeller, Pritchard became a sparingly used energy guy off the bench. He tried to prepare Zeller for Big Ten competition in practice, and he did his best to affect the game in the short time he was on the floor.
Pritchard, who was often blamed by the fans during his sophomore and junior seasons as the team struggled, started to become a fan favorite toward the end of his career. His put-back dunk against Minnesota last season became an instant hit on YouTube (ironically off a miss from Jones), and Hoosier Nation started to see how much Pritchard had given up for the good of the team.
The facial expressions were long in the Indiana locker room following the Hoosiers’ 79-71 loss to Wisconsin in the quarterfinals of the 2012 Big Ten Tournament.
IU expected to beat the Badgers for the first time since 2007 after winning their previous five games by an average of 16.2 points.
Disappointment was the natural way to react.
But buried underneath the emotion of the loss they’d experienced just minutes earlier were words of optimism from a team that’s a lock to be selected for the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s why we all came here. It’s why we all fought through the ups and downs,” Indiana guard Matt Roth said. “A lot of good things happened to us this year. We were able to face the adversity that came about and we really handled it well.”
The adversity Roth speaks of pops up over the course of the season in programs across the country. The difference in this turnaround season for Indiana is that the Hoosiers, as Roth said, have met the adversity each time and improved on the other side of it.
After losing five of seven games from Jan. 12 to Feb. 1, Indiana rattled off eight wins in its final ten games.
In the previous three seasons, losses snowballed in February and the Hoosiers met the finish line of their season in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament.
“Obviously three years of being in this locker room and the season’s over, it’s a different change,” Indiana forward Tom Pritchard said. “We’ve just gotta keep building on what we’re doing right, correct the mistakes and get ready for the NCAA Tournament.”
The fact that we’re even talking about Indiana as a lock to make the tournament is a sign the program is ahead of schedule in its road back to national prominence.
Remy Abell, Derek Elston, Tom Pritchard and Christian Watford met with the media following IU’s 79-71 loss to Wisconsin in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament. Watch and listen to postgame reaction in the embedded media players below:
Watch the senior night speeches of Kory Barnett, Verdell Jones, Daniel Moore, Tom Pritchard and Matt Roth in the embedded media players below. Tom Crean’s speech is also available. Video provided by IU Athletics on YouTube:
As a freshman in Tom Crean’s first year as coach (2008-09), he recorded a double-double in the team’s first two contests of the season — a first ever by an Indiana freshman. By year’s end, the Ohio native started all 31 games with averages of 9.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, and seemed primed to continue to be an offensive threat as his career continued.
But as Pritchard succeeded on an individual level as a freshman, the team struggled. And those struggles continued during his sophomore and junior seasons, ones in which he found his role decreasing.
He could have left for another program. Remember: Kelvin Sampson recruited him to Bloomington, not Crean. But Pritchard stuck it out, accepted his new role, and is now an important part of the Hoosiers’ surprising 23-7 season. Pritchard will likely play in his first NCAA tournament later this month, perhaps not always something he envisioned during the team’s darkest days.
Sunday’s senior day is a reminder how far Pritchard has come, and how much he has sacrificed for the good of the team. To understand the bruiser you see on the court now, though, you must first understand his journey to get there.
Big Man on Campus?
It looked easy for Pritchard at first.
Those double-doubles in his first two collegiate games were both Indiana wins. There was plenty of talk of his potential and how good he could become as he matured in the program.
But the Hoosiers began dropping games to teams like Northeastern and Lipscomb. They went 1-17 in the Big Ten. It didn’t matter that Pritchard was putting up 16 points and 11 rebounds against Ohio State – the program known for its winning, well, wasn’t.
And interest in Pritchard and the Hoosiers bottomed out.
“Our freshman year, not a lot of people were talking to us (on campus),” Pritchard said. “Not a lot of people were going to the games.”
‘We all saw that little light at the end of the tunnel’
And it didn’t figure to get better anytime soon. The Hoosiers had hometown Mr. Basketball Jordan Hulls coming in, along with top 50 players Maurice Creek and Christian Watford, but those players would need time to develop.
Indiana still needed Pritchard to play a leading role, but he couldn’t. He was a role player forced to be something more, and he struggled with it.
His numbers tailed off as the Hoosiers struggled through a 10-21 season, going 4-14 in conference play. He scored in double figures only three times all year, and he began to lose the potential tag he was given as a freshman.
Things weren’t so easy for Pritchard anymore.
“It was tough, it really was,” Pritchard said of the losing. “But we all saw that little light at the end of the tunnel.”
Derek Elston’s impact was felt almost immediately.
He entered the game Sunday night against Iowa and promptly knocked down a 3-pointer from the right corner. The next time down the floor, he hit another jumper from the right side. Then after blocking a shot, Elston raced down the court and nailed a transition 3 from the left wing.
Eight points and a block in 68 seconds, and the Hoosiers were well on their way to a 103-89 win.
“Once I saw that first one kind of go down, that’s how it kind of goes for me shooting-wise,” Elston said. “If I make my first couple ones, I have the potential to have a good game.”
Elston, like Tom Pritchard, had a big game off the bench for Indiana. But Elston and Pritchard aren’t always such key contributors. Their success is usually determined by their confidence on a given day, and they seem to play with more confidence in the comforts of Assembly Hall.
In the No. 20 Hoosiers’ five Big Ten road games, Elston and Pritchard have combined for only 16 points and 16 rebounds. That’s an average of less than two points and two rebounds per contest for each player.
In Indiana’s five conference home games, however, the bench duo has combined for 34 points and 24 rebounds.
Tom Pritchard scored a season-high seven points and aided in the Hoosiers’ strong offensive rebounding effort by snagging three in Indiana’s 103-89 win against the Hawkeyes on Sunday inside Assembly Hall. He also drew two charges and recorded a steal in his 13 minutes of action.
A look at Pritchard’s offensive contributions in the latest edition of Film Session.
1) PICKIN’ & ROLLIN’ & SCORIN’ // STEALIN’ & FINISHIN’ ON THE BREAK
Pritchard sets a ball screen for Verdell Jones down in the left corner:
Pritchard rolls to the hole. Jones comes around his screen to the left wing with Zach McCabe hedging:
Jones whips a pass to Pritchard, who’s got a clear path to the rim: