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ON CAMPUS A look at the area college sports scene

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Yale's Pritchard ready to make noise against Harvard

By Bill Cloutier
Assistant Sports Editor
bcloutier@nhregister.com
There are 17 players on the Yale men’s basketball team, the most coach James Jones has had in his 13 years at the school. And on a 12-4 team brimming with talent escaping the back end of the bench can be extremely difficult.

Jones, however, always keeps an open mind and his eyes even wider. If you can help his team in some way you will get a chance.
Jesse Pritchard got that opportunity on Saturday and he made the most of it. Pritchard, a defensive whiz with a fine jump shot, came off the bench to score nine crucial points, all in the second half, and played stifling defense as Yale knocked off Brown 73-60 to move to 2-0 in the Ivy League.
Pritchard’s success could give Jones and the Bulldogs another wrinkle as they prepare to play rival Harvard (16-2) Friday night at the Lee Amphitheater.
Pritchard, a 6-5 sophomore swingman from Ames, Iowa, admits it was hard to adjust to life as a role player. He plays behind Yale captain Reggie Willhite, who is perhaps the league’s top defensive player and the team’s third-leading scorer. Willhite is a spectacular athlete, one whose talents are seen in leagues like the Big East.
Pritchard spells Willhite when in foul trouble or need of a rest. He’s played in 15 games averaging eight minutes of action. With Willhite saddled with foul trouble throughout Saturday’s game, Pritchard played a season-high 21 minutes and grabbed a career-high eight rebounds.
“We’re fortunate to have a veteran team that’s playing really well,” Jones said. “We think a lot about Jesse. He’s played pretty hard at practice. It’s so hard (to get him minutes) because Reggie is such a dominant player it’s hard to take him off the court.”
“(Saturday) was the most minutes he played all year and that’s a credit to him that he was ready. Jesse does it in a different way than Reggie. Jesse’s a better shooter than Reggie and more of a physical defender as opposed to an athletic defender like Reggie is.”
Said Pritchard : “Everyone on the team was a star in high school so adjusting to limited playing time and having to be ready every minute to do your best definitely took some time. Coach always says that you can’t control whether you make a shot or not but you can control how hard you play.
“My goal is whenever I get my name called in to go into the game to play as hard as I can and the rest will take care of itself. It helps that I can play defense and I can help out that way, but I’m also a shooter and when I come in it can be nerve-wracking to come in make a shot.”
But Pritchard doesn’t lack for confidence. On Saturday, his 3-pointer helped give Yale a double-digit lead for the first time in the game.
“My dad used to tell me that basketball is 90 percent confidence and the other 10 percent is confidence,” he said. “You have to believe in yourself and I do but to be able to go in there (against Brown) and help the team out was a big boost. It also gets some confidence in my teammates in what I can do. I think I proved myself and the next time I come in if I’m open they’ll give me the ball and know that I can knock it down.”
Pritchard said that the chemistry on this team is one of the keys to its early-season success.
“You look at our bench and someone scores or if I come in they’re all hoping that I do well,” he said. “We love each other on and off the court. Everyone wants to get off the bench and get some playing time but if we don’t it’s a team win.”
Pritchard played a year of prep basketball at Blair Academy (Warren County, N.J.), the same school that produced NBA stars Luol Deng and Charlie Villanueva. He is excited for Friday’s contest.
“We all expect to win,” he said. “It’s a matter of protecting our homecourt. We don’t like Harvard. We know we’re as good as they are and the way people have been talking about them, I kind of feel disrespected in a way.
“It kind of feels like they’re going to walk away with the (Ivy League title) and there’s a lot of basketball to be played.”
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