This is the third installment of our summer "Getting to know" series on IU's 10 new players. Today, we focus on Tom Pritchard, a 6-foot-9 250-pound big man from Ohio.
Behind 'Young Tom' Pritchard. Talk about flying under the radar. Tom Pritchard didn't think he'd even make his high school team, let alone play Division I basketball. When he was a freshman at St. Edward High School (Ohio), Pritchard was just hoping to make one of the last spots on his school's freshman team.
Despite his height, Pritchard continued to go relatively unnoticed throughout his high school career. He spent his summers playing baseball (huge at St. Edward, they just won the state title) instead of AAU basketball. The junior varsity basketball team he was on went 19-1 one season, but he still remained relatively unknown. His junior season, when his school was one of the top teams in the state, Pritchard was overshadowed by Michigan State recruit Delvon Roe, one of the top players in the '08 class.
Pritchard eventually began to play AAU basketball after his junior season. But it wasn't a growing reputation that got him discovered, in fact, it was a gaffe by Kelvin Sampson. According to a Herald-Times story, Sampson thought he was watching Kenny Frease, a player who was already committed to Xavier. Sampson was impressed, but knew Frease was already committed. He then saw "Frease" begin to shoot left-handed and realized the player was actually Pritchard. Pritchard later committed to Sampson and the Hoosiers, choosing IU over Penn State and Miami (OH) among others.
Before Pritchard's senior season, Roe and another starting player went down with injuries, forcing St. Edward and Pritchard into a tough situation. But surprisingly, Pritchard rose to the occasion. He scored 23 points, pulled down 14 rebounds and blocked five shots in an ESPN2-televised game against Campbell Hall and Jrue Holiday. He became "The Man" on his team; leading St. Edward to the state championship game, farther than the team went the year before with Roe and co.
When Tom Crean was hired, Pritchard didn't take long to announce he was still committed to the Hoosiers. Despite the program's struggles, Pritchard said he was fully committed 100 percent to the Hoosiers. "No matter what happens, I will be there," he said.
On the floor Despite being a freshman, Pritchard is IU's most polished offensive threat in the post. He has a handful of low post moves, with an emphasis on spins, that should help the Hoosiers space the floor. The 6-foot-9 forward is left-handed and an above-average shot blocker. He has decent shooting range - as he demonstrated with a 19-foot buzzer beater against St. Igantius on Feb. 8 - but more importantly has the potential to be a great screener a la Kyle Taber.
He's not particularly quick but he does attack the rim strongly and doesn't shy away from contact. And he's a good free-throw shooter so you want him to get to the line.
The two biggest questions surrounding Pritchard's game are his conditioning and whether he'll be able to score against Big Ten opponents. The Hoosiers will run next season, and Pritchard is one of IU's few big men. More importantly, why he is by no means regarded as a great offensive player, he is better with his back to the basket than Taber and Tijan Jobe.
How Pritchard fits in with the Hoosiers Pritchard and Taber have the potential to play alongside one another or platoon, but either way Pritchard will see starter-like minutes for IU this fall. Crean might not call a lot of plays for Pritchard, but he's the type of scrappy player that gets his points off put backs and loose balls. It will be crucial for Pritchard to give the Hoosiers something in the post so IU's perimeter players can get some open looks.
IU will also face hard times if Pritchard gets in foul trouble early, something he had a tendency to do in high school. One positive thing everyone says about Pritchard is how much he improved from 8th grade to his senior year. If Pritchard continues to get better he could develop into a good role player at Crean's disposal.
People who know more than me on Pritchard "Tom is extremely skilled, strong and big, and he can run the floor. That's what makes us tough, along with our depth." - St. Edward coach Eric Flannery (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
"He understands that he doesn't have to score 30 points to help us win, because his presence opens up shots for other guys." - Flannery (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
"Pritchard is a big, strong and very skilled player that can run the floor. He made a name for himself with a sensational effort in Las Vegas against top junior Renardo Sidney and then backed up that play with some solid play the rest of the tournament." - Dave Telep of Scout.com (Inside The Hall)
"He will play for us at around 250 (pounds). You can play him inside or outside - very versatile. Kids like Tom Pritchard, you cannot have enough kids like him in your program." - (The late?) Kelvin Sampson
"Pritchard is a force on the boards and employs a physical brand of basketball to establish post position. He is improving as a scorer on the interior with solid footwork and post moves. He runs the court very well and seems to have an endless amount of energy. He will not blow you away with the spectacular, but he will make solid plays consistently." - ESPN Insider
The numbers don't lie... '07-'08: 16.0 ppg, 10 rpg, nearly 60% from the field '06-'07: 14 ppg, 7 rpg, 2 bpg
A little bit more on Pritchard * Here is a YouTube clip of Pritchard, which focuses on him the entire five minutes. Not a bad video, Young Tom makes a couple of plays. * A series of clips of St. Edward's game versus Newark State. * A team player: "I've never been concerned with playing time. I'll sit on the bench and cheer the team on if it helps the team win." - Pritchard to the IDS * St. Edward coach Eric Flannery describes Pritchard as quiet hard worker. * Pritchard was named the Cleveland Plain Dealer's seven-county Player of the Year. * 3.0 GPA student in high school. * Finally, a shout out to Downing's 5th. I eagerly await you to wax poetic.
Check back for our next featured Hoosier, Matt Roth.