Shaun Pruitt is Coach Bruce Weber's most highly touted recruit to-date. Pruitt finished second in the state of Illinois' Mr. Basketball voting last year. First place honors went to Los Angles Clippers guard Shaun Livingston.
"Most freshman enter the game for the first time and may be a little nervous with all the fans and lights surrounding the place, but Pruitt didn't show that," said Weber. Immediately, when Pruitt received the ball in the post he knew what to do with it. He felt where the defender was, knew the match-up was in his favor and it resulted in a strong left-handed jump hook.
Pruitt, unlike Brock, didn't want to sit out the year, "I know minutes will be tough to come by this year, but I think I can help the team out. When I get my minutes, I'm going to make the most of them." Pruitt said.
No disrespect to Nick Smith, James Augustine, and Jack Ingram, but Pruitt really looks like a true post player, something the Illini were truly missing last year. Starting big man, James Augustine, talked about last year's Duke game. "I was very tired trying to guard Sheldon Williams, it took its toll on me. He's so strong down low, having Shaun here should really help us." Said Augustine.
Coach Weber is constantly talks to his players during the games. Reminding the guards to swing the ball, push the ball every time, each time Pruitt was in the post he was able to seal his man and get the ball inside with ease. This part of the game came natural to the big man because Pruitt played with his back to the basket for most of his entire career. During the second half, when Pruitt entered the game, he appeared to read the double teams, he knew when to kick it back out to keep the offense moving. Pruitt was going to the rim strong, "Yes, I was trying to dunk the ball it's apart of my game when I get it down low." Pruitt said. "You have to be strong to play in the Big Ten, my dad has always told me when you play Big Ten basketball expect contact."
The season is still young. If Pruitt can be patient, get better each week, and not become frustrated with his minutes, people will see why he was considered one of the best big men in the high school ranks last year.