A baseball injury might have paved the way for a future in Big Ten basketball for Tom Pritchard.
While most high school basketball talents spend their spring and summer months bouncing around the country participating in AAU tournaments, you could find this 6'8", 235-pounder located on top of a pitching mound for his St. Edward's (Ohio) High School baseball team. But an elbow injury and subsequent shoulder ailment made it too painful for him to continue pitching, so he gave up the sport and focused his attention on basketball this spring.
"It was tough (giving up baseball)," Pritchard said. "I was just never able to recover from the injury and it hurt whenever I pitched so I gave it up."
That decision freed him up to play AAU basketball for the first time during his prep career, and gave college coaches a chance to see him at a handful of high-profile events this summer. More exposure produced more opportunities for Pritchard.
One of those opportunities arose in Bloomington. Pritchard said IU Coach Kelvin Sampson was in the AAU event in Las Vegas scouting another player on his team and took notice of Pritchard's abilities. That prompted Sampson to watch Pritchard the rest of the time in Vegas as well as in Orlando, and a scholarship offer came soon afterwards.
"I didn't think about it at the time, but after I realized AAU events is where you usually get looked at, (being forced to give up baseball) became a plus," Pritchard said.
With baseball now behind him, college basketball is in his immediate future. He has narrowed his list to Indiana, Penn State and Miami (Ohio), and a decision should be coming later this month.
"I'd say it's Indiana and Penn State, and Miami is probably third right now," Pritchard said.
One of the big draws of IU and Penn State is the fact they're in the Big Ten. Pritchard is a high school teammate of Michigan State-bound forward Delvon Roe, and he's intrigued by the idea of joining his prep teammate in one of college basketball's elite conferences.
"I wouldn't say playing in the Big Ten is everything, but it's pretty big," Pritchard said.
So at which Big Ten program is he most likely to wind up? Pritchard heads to Penn State this weekend for his official visit, and will then trip to Bloomington the following weekend to visit with Sampson and the IU players. He's already made unofficials to both schools, and he expects to make his decision shortly after returning home from his IU visit.
"Definitely during that week after I come back from Indiana is when I'll decide," Pritchard said. "I'll sit down and figure out where I'm going to go and make my decision."
Indiana might own a commanding edge on Penn State in regards to on-court success in basketball, but Coach Ed DeChellis' program appears to be formidable recruiting competition in this case.
"What stands out with Penn State is that I like the school and the atmosphere," Pritchard said. "With Indiana I like the tradition and the program that it's built."
It looks like it's a neck-and-neck battle which will be determined based on how his official visits go during the next two weekends.
"I want to get a chance to meet the players while I'm on my visits," Pritchard said. "I'm sure they're all great guys. I just want to see what they're like and see what their life is like at the school. Also coaching is going to be important. That's probably my major concern. I want to have a great relationship with the coaches."
Whichever school lands him will be getting a post presence who can score around the basket and defend big men. He's also an adept passer, which is something Sampson stressed when giving him his spiel about why he thinks IU is the best fit for him.
"I'm a role player and they think my role would fit well into their system because of my passing abilities and my ability to create for other players and to be able to score the ball," Pritchard said.
What's Pritchard Thinking?
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