Monday, July 20, 2009
Prescott Looks To Make Leap
Eager To Show His Growth
By MIKE ANTHONY
Chris Prescott speaks with a certain calm and comfort about his new life in Philadelphia, his first season at St. Joseph's. He is relieved, it seems, to have the most difficult parts of acclimation to Division I basketball behind him.
"My confidence is so high right now," he said recently after playing for All Axxess Entertainment in the Greater Hartford Pro-Am Summer Basketball League.
This was not always the case. After a stellar high school career at Northwest Catholic, Prescott chose St. Joe's over a number of schools, including Seton Hall, St. John's and Rhode Island. He headed to Philly aspiring to make an immediate mark on the Atlantic 10 under coach Phil Martelli."
Chris had a difficult freshman year in that college basketball is really daunting for some guys," Martelli said. "As successful as Chris was in high school, we're asking him to take it up a whole other notch. In the beginning of the year he was real wide-eyed and a little unnerved. Then he kind of settled in, and I think from Christmas on he just played, didn't worry, didn't get out of sorts about minutes or the ball going in. I was really impressed with his perseverance and improvement."In 31 games off the bench, Prescott, a 6-foot-2 guard from Bloomfield, averaged 2.9 points and 12.5 minutes, but the numbers don't reflect his contributions once conference play began. He averaged 3.3 points and 15.6 minutes over the last 19 games and was often the first player off the bench.Even that incremental improvement isn't enough to wow the casual observer, and Prescott never scored more than nine points in a game. He wanted to make the A-10 All-Rookie team, and didn't.
He often felt the wrath of Martelli, the national coach of the year in 2004. The Hawks finished 17-15."We were a team that struggled to score, and I knew Chris was capable of scoring points," Martelli said. "And I knew at the beginning of the year he was capable of having greater focus than he had. My thing is, I'm going to lean, and I'm going to aim low on your body some days, and other days I'm going to be whispering in your ear and patting you on the back." Prescott returned to Hartford last week feeling great about his college choice, how he fits into the program and the strides -- mental, physical -- he made during the second half of the season, even if he was expecting to post more impressive numbers. With a lot of family in Philadelphia, including a sister at La Salle, he has found a second home. It took a few months, but he has adapted to the structure and demands of being a student athlete.
"Last year was definitely a learning experience," he said. "I didn't score 30 points in a game. I didn't play 35 minutes a game. But I'm a different player now, even over the last three months -- so much of a jump."Prescott has bulked up."It's not the cheese steaks," he said.
It's muscle. He gained 11 pounds during the season but has dropped 6 to get back to 190, right where he wants to be. He feels explosive, and has looked it in the Pro-Am, scoring 78 points in his first two games.With center Ahmad Nivins, the focal point of last season's team, now in the NBA, Prescott has a chance to emerge in a group of guards that could be more heavily leaned on."He has a desire to score the ball, and that's needed," Martelli said. "There's a lot made of defense and athletic ability, but we always have to remember this is a skill game and you have to score more than your opponent. Chris has to be a scorer, and I'd like to see him develop into more well-rounded player, not be pigeonholed as a shooter, because that happened sometimes last year."
All Prescott is thinking about now, however, is next season -- the next three, even. He has gotten to know NBA players Jameer Nelson and Delonte West, who led St. Joe's to a 30-2 record and the Elite Eight in 2004. He dreams of matching their accomplishments -- and now realizes what the road toward that goal calls for. "I always point to the Delonte West story," Martelli said. "He shot 17 percent on threes as a freshman and played under eight minutes a game. I'm not saying that's the path for everybody, but that kind of improvement is the cornerstone of my program. And I suspect Chris will be in the next wave of guys who people will say, 'Wow, he's really improved."