Greg Pryor made what teammates have called the play of the year when he took a charge in the final seconds to preserve the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's 70-69 win over Wofford last Saturday.
He wouldn't have made the same play earlier this season, when fellow point guard Ronrico White wore warmups during games and acted as another coach instead of a player. UTC couldn't have afforded Pryor trying to take charges for the risk of fouls being called on him.
Pryor, despite a decrease in his scoring and assisting, has matured some as a point guard, and White has his back off the bench. That is a luxury coach Will Wade couldn't bank on during the preseason or much of UTC's nonconference schedule.
"The thing about Greg is that he has a great feel for the game," said White, a junior who began playing the point last season for former coach John Shulman. "He's so poised out there. He doesn't look rattled. He's already got a trait of an older point guard -- he's cool, calm and collected.
"The point guard has to be a leader, and when others see you're not rattled, then they'll be cool, too."
Pryor is cool enough to close for the Mocs. He joined White, senior Zaccheus Mason and sophomores Casey Jones and Gee McGhee on the floor for the final eight seconds Saturday night.
It's one thing for a freshman to start. It's a different level of trust from his coach to finish a one-possession Southern Conference game at home.
"He's a very good free-throw shooter, and he's wise beyond his years," Wade said of Pryor. "He's already played in a lot of pressure-packed situations. A lot of little things lead up to giving us the confidence to play him at the end."
That confidence is boosted by having a backup who could start on any team in the SoCon and many teams across the nation. White doesn't care if he's out there for the opening tip or the final whistle.
Wins are the most important statistic to both players.
"As a freshman, I feel that I'm doing as good as I can for my team," said Pryor, who has averaged 6.6 points per game. "I know I have a lot of room to improve, to get better."
But playing in the final moments of a close game requires trust over statistics. Those are the moments when a coach needs his players to win a game.
Pryor did just that.
"Greg knows his role has changed a bit and we don't need him to score as much," Wade said. "He does a good job of pushing the pace and getting guys shots. He's done a lot of little things to help us win."
Taking a charge is included.
Contact David Uchiyama at email@example.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.