It's amazing, in retrospect, that last season IU played, essentially, with two true frontcourt players, Tom Pritchard and Kyle Taber. Taber is gone, of course, and so IU, despite last year's youth, returns little to the frontcourt.
Tom Pritchard, 6-9 sophomore. Pritchard began the season strong, but as the competition improved and the season wore on, his numbers really suffered. In some respects, he was the anti-Verdell Jones. I feel as if I should add a caveat to each of my posts about the horrific 2008-09 season mentioning that more was asked of any given player than is reasonable. That is certainly true of Pritchard.
Through January 25, the date of IU's close home loss to Minnesota, Pritchard had scored in double figures in 14 of 18 games. He scored in double figures only twice in the remaining 13 games. This wasn't all that hard to see coming. Pritchard struggled in IU's toughest earlier games, shooting 1-7 at Wake Forest and 2-8 at Kentucky. While Pritchard averaged 9.7 points per game on the season, he averaged only 7.8 in Big Ten games and shot 43 percent from the field in-conference.
Still, he had some highligts:
- Although IU lost badly, Pritchard hung in against all-American Luke Harangody, scoring 14 points and 6 remounds (although on only 6-15 from the field) against Notre Dame;
- He scored 13 points on 4-6 from the field against Gonzaga;
- At Purdue, Pritchard scored 12 points and had 8 rebounds;
- He scored a career-high 23 points on 7-7 from the field in a win against Cornell, IU's only win against an NCAA Tournament team;
- Despite playing 27 minutes, Pritchard was held scoreless on only 1 field goal attempt and had only three rebounds in a loss at Minnesota;
- He scored only 2 points in 31 minutes in the tough senior night loss to Michigan State;
Pritchard, like all Hoosiers, played more of a role than most comparable players in IU history. He seems likely to remain a solid contributor throughout his time in Bloomington.
Tijan Jobe, 7-0 senior. As I said when Jobe signed in 2008:
He has been in the United States for only four years (it's unclear to me from the brief reports whether he played basketball before coming to the US) and averaged only 3 points and 3 rebounds per game. As a 7-footer in junior college.
Given his meager playing time last season, there is little to suggest that Jobe ever will have much of an opportunity to contribute at IU. Jobe scored 7 points in 2009, although he ended on a hot streak, with 5 points in his last 4 games. After a bucket against St. Joseph's in Maui, he didn't score again until February 28 at Penn State. Also, and oddly enough, he didn't score a single point at Assembly Hall. On the positive side, he did rebound quite effectively when he had the chance. Jobe played only 108 minutes but had 17 rebounds.
The departure, as I noted, was Kyle Taber. As I said before, Taber came to IU as a walk-on, spent a redshirt season with a knee injury, and then played not a single significant minute in the next 2.5 seasons. Taber, to everyone's surprise, started against Northwestern on February 3, 2008, and played 24 scoreless minutes with 4 rebounds, a block, and a turnover. From that point forward, Taber played in every game, exceeding 20 minutes four times, and playing at least 10 minutes in 10 of IU's 13 remaining games. Taber was a model of offensive efficiency, shooting only when a basket was certain. He shot 0-1 against NU but then made all nine of his attempts for the rest of the season. He shot 5-6 from the line, pulled down 3 rebounds per game, and turned the ball over only 5 times in 207 minutes. He was a classic do-no-harm player. He played minutes without making a huge positive impact, but with virtually no negative impact. With increased playing time, Taber's productivity declined. Still, he was the only Hoosier who shot over 50 percent last season. I hope he won't be missed, but he was a valuable contributor.