Pryor reaches coveted milestone for Sewickley Academy
Coming up through Sewickley Academy's program, Justin Pryor dreamed one day he'd join the basketball team's 1,000-point club.
The senior punched his ticket in the team's 82-71 win over Franklin Regional on Dec. 27 at the North Allegheny tournament. Pryor tallied a game-high 23 points for the Panthers.
“It was pretty awesome,” he said. “That was always a goal of mine going into high school.”
That he eclipsed the milestone on a drive to the hoop in which he got fouled is symbolic. The 6-foot-3 guard spent extra time in the weight room over the summer in order to help him navigate to the rim through traffic.
“I am happy for Justin. He works so hard in the weight room and on his skills, especially during the offseason,” Sewickley Academy coach Win Palmer said. “Franklin Regional has some really big kids, and Justin is getting to the rim and finishing against taller players. The added strength he put on in the offseason is making all the difference for him.”
Palmer said strength has polished Pryor's all-around game.
“He has become such a good basketball player his senior year. He has already been a good player, but he has just taken it to another level,” he said. “He has that game a lot of players don't have. He has a really good pull-up jump shot. He shoots the 3 well. With his strength, he's good at getting to the basket. Now, when he starts to drive and teams collapse on him, he kicks the ball out to many of our shooters and creates shot opportunities for his teammates. Once teams see that and back off, he'll keep attacking the basket and take it himself.
“He has gotten better every year. As a sophomore, he really blossomed. As a senior, he is such a better player. He is stronger, more physical and understands the game so well. He's really turned into an excellent passer, as well. We knew coming into a season he had a good chance to get 1,000 points, but didn't think it'd happen so soon.”
Pryor is a key element in the Panthers' balanced attack. One of the team's double-digit scorers, he's happy to share the basketball.
“Our coaches stress the team mentality. We talked about that a lot going into the season. We have a lot of players who can score 20 points per game,” Pryor said. “This season is all about making sacrifices for the betterment of the team. Each game, we've come closer and closer to achieving that.”
While Pryor worked hard on his offense, he felt he made a big improvement on the defensive side, too.
“I like to be an overall playmaker, whether that's scoring myself or making a good play for my teammates. I like getting good assists or making a nice jump shot or layup. I just want to make a play,” he said. “I think the main thing was improving my defense and defensive instincts, such as getting in passing lanes, taking charges and forcing guys to go a certain way. I feel good with where my game is now.”
Sewickley Academy, which was the WPIAL Class A runner-up and a PIAA semifinalist last year, has high expectations this year in Class 2A. The Panthers are ranked No. 2 in Class 2A by the Tribune-Review.
“I think everyone on the team is real happy with where we are. I think we all see how good we can be; we just have to play to our strengths,” Pryor said. “Every year I've been in high school, the goals were really high. I think this is our best chance to achieve those goals. I am excited I have this year to try to do that.”
Joe Sager is a freelance writer.