That’s A Wrap: Tom Pritchard

  • 03/16/2011 10:53 am in

(Photo via Peter Stevenson on TwitPic)

Welcome to “That’s A Wrap,” our attempt to make some sense of the 2010-11 season. Sit back. Relax. Grab some popcorn. Get your read on. Today: Tom Pritchard.

Final Stats (31 games): 2.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 0.7 apg, 59.0% FG, 34.8% FT in 18.2 minutes per game

So is it me, or was Tom Pritchard one of the most quietly impressive Hoosiers on the court this season?

Granted, his offensive game was just as stop-and-go (putting it lightly) as ever. But Pritchard was quite possibly Indiana’s most improved and most consistent defender, and a significant minority of fouls he committed this season were in covering for a teammate that had lost his mark.

We also started seeing some of the Pritchard that Tom Crean and other Hoosiers have talked about – the one with strong footwork, underrated athleticism and some actual swagger around the rim.

This rather emphatic, ridiculously surprising putback dunk not withstanding, when Pritchard was assertive and aggressive on the offensive end, his teammates fed off that energy more clearly and efficiently than perhaps anyone else on the team.

Looking back, it’s probably fair to say that, in a sense, Pritchard came out of his shell a little bit, and began to define the final product he’ll become. Though it’s hard to picture him becoming a scoring force in his senior season, it’s certainly not beyond even the adventurous imagination to see him put up nicely improved numbers next year. And as his strength has improved, so has his rebounding, a significant need for Indiana next season as well.

All of this swells up to create the potential for Pritchard to play a critical role on the 2011-12 Indiana basketball team: foil to Cody Zeller.

No one doubts Zeller’s talent, particularly on offense or on the boards. But Rivals lists the senior big man at 215 pounds, and it’s rare to see a frontcourt player come in and make an immediate impact, barring exceptional physical development, like something in the mold of Jared Sullinger.

Zeller will be an important member of next year’s squad, no doubt, and will probably be an early frontrunner for Big Ten freshman of the year. But he’ll only do that if Pritchard can work as his protection, manning up against larger, more physical players and taking a lead on low-post defense.

Pritchard has to protect Zeller as much as he has to nurture him – he needs to be the muscle to Zeller’s exceptional talent, while the latter goes through some of the growing pains associated with developing strength to play at the college level.

Shining moment(s): The dunk. And the aforementioned improvement on defense.

Bottom line: Right now, Pritchard has to be one of the names penciled into next year’s first starting lineup, a position well-earned, particularly in the latter half of this season. But he also needs to work hard in the offseason to gel with Zeller. The more quickly Indiana’s potential starting forwards can develop a working rapport, the closer the Hoosiers will be to being able to boast, if nothing else, a productive frontcourt for the first time in quite some time. By nature of his status and his story, Zeller will get the headlines. But it will likely be up to Pritchard to make the partnership work, a challenge he appears ready to take up this summer.

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  • Anonymous

    I think there is the potential for Pritch as a senior to double pretty much all of his junior stats. That would put him at 5.0 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.4 apg (that one’s probably a bit high, but he could do it with another interior player to pass to,) and doubling that 34% FT mark would go a long way in helping him achieve these numbers.

  • joe

    agree on the FT’s!!! I mean, come on Pritch, your coordinated enough, you’ve shoot FT’s your entire life, get it together on those FT’s. I could shoot 34% with my opposite hand.

  • stonaroni

    I hope improved talent in the system as well as our new recruits hekp TP be a factor next season. It would be nice to see our guards………..ALL OF THEM……play better than average defense next season. This will help TP immensely as he will not have to cover the driver and his man. I hope the same from DE and CW next season as their 2011 defense was matadoric at best. TP suffered too many simple fouls at the hands of the poor defenders around him.

    With that being said, he will be a good compliment to CZ in the paint because TP actually plays helpside and for TP, there is a taller, more athletic guy in CZ that can alter shots. TP isn’t always going to be the last line of defense next season.

    If he could just muster up his FR year scoring again, he would be a huge asset to this team. Maybe he will since we have some interior help next season.

    Here’s to a good SR year for you TP, you definatelt deserve it!

  • Anonymous

    Pritchard reminds me a bit of Jared Odle. Once Jared had some good players around him inside (Jefferies / Newton), it gave him some space to operate, get to the rim, rebound and hit some shots.

    I hope if Watford continues to develop, play more inside and become a better passer (I think this, besides his strength, is the weakest part of his game rignt now) that Pritch can benefit from he and Zeller. However, to do so Pritch needs to work on the 10-15 ft. jump shot, his confidence and his FT shooting. Secondly, Pritch is a good defender…but he must learn to be more disciplined and finish the play (i.e. let the man take a tough shot over an outreached hand…don’t bail him out and foul at the last minute). If Pritch can reach his potential on these fundamentals I think the Pritch / Wat / Zeller trio in the front court (w/ one guy rotating off of the bench) would be a solid B10 threat with Jordy at point and Creek / Verdell / Sheehey / Vic / Etherington on the wings.

    Pritch…your the X-factor…believe!


    I don’t see how anyone can say he “came out of his shell”. Look at that stat line again and then add in foull/illegal screens per game. 34% FT shooting to go with 2.5 pts, 3.5 boards..If those stats indicate someone breaking out, then I guess Verdell will be an NBA lottery pick

  • Anonymous

    It’s remarkable. If you watch Pritchard in warm ups, he’s got the 10-15 foot jumper down. Most of the time, it doesn’t even touch rim. If he can translate even a portion of this to next season, he’ll help. Plus, it may help him that the biggest defender may shift over to Zeller because of his height. I guess we’ll see, but I still am holding out some hope for the Pritch.

  • Anonymous

    It’s all relative. He “came out of his shell” relative to how he had been playing, especially last year. No one is saying he broke out as a big time player as much as he broke out as a potentially important role player.

  • Anonymous

    Your comments on how TP’s play will impact Zeller’s is spot-on. And for the millionth time, makes me frustrated about the Guy situation. He could have been another option in protecting Zeller. Oh well…

  • One thing I’d say on Pritchard that I don’t think is talked about often enough: He was recruited to Indiana by the previous staff as a guy who was going to need some time to develop into a significant contributor. The situation changed and he was called upon to play major minutes from day one. And overall, I think he plays hard despite battling confidence problems. He was never going to be an all-conference type player and I think sometimes the criticism he takes is a bit unfair because expectations are out of line. I agree with Zach that he’s improved defensively even if his numbers have gotten worse offensively. He’s an important piece on next year’s team, IMO, for many of the reasons Zach just laid out.

  • jcopey

    Don’t forget his tip in for the WIN! (was that vs. Illinois?)

  • eph521

    Pritchard’s putback dunk against Minnesota is still the highlight of the year for me.

  • IUeconAlum

    I think he has played to the best of his ability. I think we all could agree he has been consistent in his performances. Better that than up and down all the time.

  • JerryCT

    Nice piece and you absolutely got it right.

    It was rare for a big to beat us but perimeter players did game in and game out. He showed he can actually defend Taylor out in space and last year did well on JJ and then on Hummel.

    People want to see blocked shots but TP alters shots with his lower body causing tons of misses which to me is good as a block.

    He passes the ball out of trouble better than anyone on the team.

    With our excessive dribbling and bogged down offense he always recognizes this and sprints out for a screen to shake the whole offense loose. About 50% of the time the ball handler Vj3 or JH make their move too early luring him into a foul possibility.

    In our best games including close losses the only consistent theme is TP playing more than 25 minutes. Our good games had nothing much to do with VJ3 or CW not playing and everything to do with more minutes from TP…………………Any disbeliever can check the box scores.

    I too wish for more points and more cleanup garbage but our offense is just not set up for that.

    TP will greatly benefit from CZ or CW on the low block just as he did with Kyle Taber.

  • MillaRed

    I think the most important thing for him is to stay on the damn floor. Way too many early exits that change the game plan. “He is fouling because others lose their man, it’s the guards.”

    I really don’t want to hear all of that. Sometimes the other team has to score. A foul isn’t always necessary. The two points given up on most occasions are a better trade off than TP picking up his 3rd foul 10 minutes into the game.

    Regardless of what TP is or is not in the box score, he is an important player and needs to STAY ON THE FLOOR consistently for us to take this to another level.

  • IUJeff

    TP would have fouled much less and been a great deal more confident and effective, if our guards would make opposing guards go to their weak side. Most guards cannot beat you with their off hand and we were beat WAY too many times by guards taking it to the hole with their strong hand.

  • Anonymous

    I have been cautiously optimistic about the impact that Zeller can have next year. However, I am starting the buy “The Pritch” factor. I think the fan base needs to realize some things.

    #1 – We can expect a sophomore slump from VO and WS. It happened to Pritch, DE, and just about everyone else. Watford didn’t exactly slump but I don’t know if he was exactly what we were expecting this year.

    #2 – The Pritch and VJII will be THE seniors this next year. THEY HAVE TO BE THE LEADERSHIP in attitude if nothing else!!! CZ will be the best rookie we have had for a while but he needs to “be nurtured” as this excellent article puts it.

    I really think that CZ will help Pritch just as much as Pritch can help CZ. If by some stroke of fortune from the basketball gods we can land Traylor, I will go from being cautiously optimistic about Zeller to being cautiously optimistic about the Big Dance!

  • Anonymous

    It is rare I agree with you, but I have to admit agreement here. I have to imagine that CW, TP, and CZ is the best frontcourt that this team has seen in… 3 years?

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    Agree! If he could shoot just 60% then he would have more confidence making moves down low and teams couldn’t just hack him in order to stop him.

  • ldiu

    We have certainly reached a low when one or two dunks a year constitute a highlight for the year. When TP plays, we are always 4 on 5. I think the expectations of us for TP were rather low that when he does do something good, we tend to rave about it.

  • hgdownunder

    Sophomore slump? We are really in deep trouble if we expect it. Players usually show the biggest improvement between freshman & sophmore years historically. The fact our guys don’t .. well, you do the maths.

  • Anonymous

    One huge thing TP and all the other bigs need to work on is staying set on picks until the ball clears the pick. Make the guard or whoever responsible for using it!!!

  • Anonymous

    Virtually all illegal screens (other than those set by Derek Elston,) are a result of the person for whom the screen is being set operating the play incorrectly.

  • Anonymous

    My daughter was sitting next to me on the couch at that point. I believe her eardrum has almost healed.

  • Anonymous

    94 Fouls, 88 Points, 8-23 FT…if that is quietly impressive, then god help us if he has a bad year. The sad thing is that I think he does have good footwork and improved from last year. That’s sad b/c he consistently looks completely outmatched in every conference game.

    I’ll always remember those two dunks this year and his amazing start to his freshman year, but I won’t be sad to see him at the mic on Senior night next winter. I’m ready to have BigTen basketball players.

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    “Matadoric” – HA HA HA HA – well put!!!

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    I agree that players usually make their biggest strides between their first and second years! Jordan Hulls made that improvement even though he wasn’t great on the defensive end. CWat was better offensively even though he still went through a severe “soft” stretch but his defense was not better. DE and BC were worse and Mo Creek was hurt.

    That’s not exactly a good result out of our five sophomores and could easily explain the weakness this season.

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    There is a serious misconception among basketball fans today and that is THAT ALL FIVE PLAYERS HAVE TO BE SCORERS!!! This is FALSE!

    Players like Dennis Rodman made a living at getting junk buckets off rebounds and REBOUNDING and playing GOOD DEFENSE! If the other guys on the floor are scoring threats then you can actually benefit from one guy being the defensive specialist and rebounder and if TP can stay on the floor by staying out of foul trouble then he’s exactly that. It can actually create bad chemistry when you have to many scorers and not zero role players. “Too many chiefs and not enough indians” so to say.

    TP really, really locked down guys this year when he didn’t pick up those cheap help D fouls like J. Johnson, M. Tisdale, Sampson/Iverson/Mbakwe, Leuhr, etc. He is a good interior defender and that’s his role on this team. Everyone needs to stop expecting a 10 ppg type player because that’s just not who he is. I agree that because of Zeller he could pick up a bucket or two off rebounds and double teams and if he could average 6 ppg and 8 rpg then this team would have a shot at the NCAA tournament.

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    He may be outmatched on the offensive end but he is not outmatched on the defensive end – see post above!

  • Anonymous

    For the most part I agree Aceman. Although I think scoring is more of a premium right now squad given the lack of an elite scoring talent on our team.

    That being said however, I am still with you. As I said above, if Pritch can be more reliable from the 10-15ft range, free throws and put backs (which he is for sure capable of) and work on defensive discipline (really just a mental thing and practice) he can be a HUGE help to this squad next year. He will be in a position to put in 8-12 pts a game and 6-10 rbs a game just by taking what is given to him (open shots, rebounds and dump-offs). On the defensive end, when he doesn’t bail out the offensive player, he is extremely effective.

    I believe. We believe. I hope he and his teamates do to. They will need him as much as anyone else (Zeller included – people underestimate how long it will take him to be an effective college player) next year to reach our potential.

    And to some other comments, although he is not the focul point of the teams leadership, I do think people feed off of him. When Pritch goes, the rest of the team gets going to!

  • Anonymous

    I like the Odle comparison…that guy basically came out of nowhere his senior year. He’d only played sparingly, since Haston had been there as well, but you’re right, once he got consistent minutes with other good big guys, he delivered rebounding, defense, and a lot of right time/right place buckets (putbacks, baseline cuts where Jeffries would feed him from the high post) all things I could see Pritchard doing next year. Pritchard is actually a decent passer as well, you could maybe put him on the high post. But he needs to learn that if he’s going to foul, it can’t be a bad foul. And hopefully the offense will feature less of him setting ballscreens and not rolling inside.

    But, anyway, the Odle thing was good.

  • Anonymous

    I will continue to be wary of any “big dance” thinking……

  • Anonymous

    Great year by Pritchard in my opinion – especially in relation to the rest of the team. 1 of 4 players I wanted to see on the court the most. This is coming from someone who was not a fan of him at all the year before. I don’t have tons of examples or numbers, but I was proud of him this year and think he will have a good senior year

  • Anonymous

    I should have been clearer in my statement before. We can expect slumps because there is no true veteran leadership aka modeled mental toughness. It needs to stop this year because we have players that have actually been in a system long enough to be considered “veteran”. They need to start with the nurturing of the incoming classes. So… yeah… we can expect slumps. That is why Hulls, Watford, et al have not truly realized their potential. They have had no one to model. Say what you want but leadership is groomed not magically conjured,

  • Anonymous

    If Zeller consistently receives the ball at the high post and then makes good decisions based on the defense, I see Pritch and Jordy getting quite a few more opportunities to fill it up.

    I agree that stopping opponent guards from penetrating at will should help Pritch stay out of foul trouble next year.

    I watched the ’84 IUvUNC game the other night and was reminded of the importance of guards waiting until the screener is set to make their move–a skill the current guards still have not mastered.

  • JerryCT

    Rarely agreeing w me puts you in a rather large majority most of the time it seems.

    And I am not comparing Taber to anyone but pointing out TP’s different results when playing w a true partner on the low block.

  • ldiu

    If he is so good on defense, why does he foul so much? Also, he had 7 more total rebounds (.1 per game) than DE and played a lot more minutes.

  • JerryCT

    Interesting point about rebounds. TP is a “body first” rebounder taking his man out of the play is his priority. DE not so much.

    It would be interesting to find out the difference in team rebounds when each is in the game.

    On fouls on defense: It would be another nice stat to know who he is fouling ……. his man or during help D. Also his man often gets the ball on the low block. The only real defense for this is to deny the pass to the wing or pressure the wing to force a bad pass. Our perimeter ball pressure is non existent. Once the ball is on the low block fouling is almost a standard call.

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    Yeah, I watched him guard JJ one on one against PUke and he did a great job on him when they were matched up one on one. Also, the guards didn’t drop down to help as much when TP was on his man leaving less open looks from three point land. When DE or CW are isolated on the block we almost always have to help leaving open distance looks.

    Also, I watched TP guard more than one big man this year without picking up more than a foul or two while matched up one on one. He picks up a lot of his fouls helping other players (both guards who were beat and CW who was beat a lot). He really, REALLY, cut back on the moving screen calls this year. I bet he had half as many this year or less than last. DE on the other hand is the worst screener I have ever seen!

  • InTheMtns

    All of next year’s Seniors will always be special players to me because they came to play for IU when others wouldn’t. I hope all of them get to taste real success next year.

    Tom has certainly struggled his first three years, but I think that’s understandable when we remember what Alex pointed out, and that is he was recruited by the previous staff as a role player and as a player who was going to need time to develop into a significant contributor. Doing more and being more than you are completely capable of has to be tough. One thing I’ve always admired about Tom is that he has usually tried to do what has been asked of him. And he usually plays with hustle and effort. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him jogging back, with his head down, on defense.

    He hasn’t been the All-Star center that we’ve desperately needed but I’ve noticed that I always felt more confident in the team when Tom was on the floor. He did a lot of the “little things” that don’t show up in the box score. He helped create offense for others by setting solid screens and passing well to open players, as well as making a few putbacks. He probably moved more on offense than any other player on the team. He played pretty solid defense in the post, usually kept his man out of the best position on the floor and used his body to altered a lot of shots. If we needed a defensive stop, it was more likely to happen if Tom was on the floor. I think this year he was one of our best players at altering his game to fit the situation and the match-ups.

    When your biggest contribution is doing unglamorous work (solid defense) on a losing team for three years, while being criticized for not doing more of the glamorous work (scoring), continual commitment to the job has to be admired, in my opinion.

  • InTheMtns

    I’ve wondered about the rebounding numbers, too, and I think what you said about being a “body first” rebounder is significant. It seems to me that Tom’s approach to rebounding against taller or more athletic guys is to block them out or seal them off so the rebound is obtainable by an IU guard. He is also good at getting deflections. He doesn’t get credit for the rebound but maybe he creates the rebound for another IU player or the team? I wish we did have the numbers to see the difference in team rebounds when he is the game.

    I’d also like to see the stat on who he fouled — his man or during help D.

  • Pritch will be a great captain next year. He does all the things you need to win and with cody and austin we will be better. Surprised me to see IU ranked at 79th – up from 183 last year in the final pomeroy ratings…I was hoping for 13-15 wins but it was an improvement from last year. Next yr with Pritch, the new recruits, a healthy Mo we should be in the 15-20 win and hopefully an NCaa slot….