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Payton Pritchard leads Pac-12 rookies in NBA season’s first weeks

Jan 9, 2021
Brian Babineau/Getty Images

In high school, Payton Pritchard led the West Linn Lions to four-straight state championships. In college, he anchored an Oregon Ducks team that made the Sweet Sixteen round every year and won three Pac-12 titles. It only makes sense that he would keep on winning once he hit the pros. 

Pritchard has quickly become the newest darling of the NBA. The shooting guard has yet to start a game, but he continues to get more and more meaningful minutes off the bench for the Boston Celtics. Including scoring 23 points in just 32 minutes against Toronto and shooting over 42% from beyond the arc overall. At just 6-2, Pritchard’s workman-like efficiency has already made him something of a cult hero in Boston, even drawing comparisons to Celtics' legend Larry Bird. 

After falling all the way to the Celtics at No. 26, Pritchard’s inspired play has many calling him the steal of the 2020 NBA Draft. The former Oregon standout’s stock has continued to rise all season, culminating in his buzzer-beating tip-in to power the Celtics past the Miami Heat on January 6th.

For all his success, Pritchard has not avoided classic rookie hazing, with teammate Tristan Thompson posting a hilarious and rather embarrassing video from Pritchard’s younger days. 

While no other Pac-12 alumni rookies have had the impact that Pritchard has, seven others have made their professional debuts. Detroit’s Isaiah Stewart (Washington), Denver’s Zeke Nnaji (Arizona), Minnesota’s Jaden McDaniels (Washington), Portland’s C.J. Elleby (Washington State), Golden State’s Nico Mannion (Arizona) and Dallas’ Josh Green (Arizona) and Tyrell Terry (Stanford) have gotten playing time for their new teams in the first two weeks of the season. 

The highest drafted former Pac-12 student-athlete has yet to make his NBA debut. But that could change soon. Onyeka Okongwu, who was taken sixth overall by the Atlanta Hawks, provided regular highlight-reel footage for USC last year. The big man is hoping to make his season debut soon after missing time due to a foot injury. Okongwu can get to the basket with ease, play punishing defense and will surely be a welcome sight for the 4-4 Hawks.

For now though, Boston Celtics fans are learning what Oregon Ducks fans have known for the past four years. No matter the level, Payton Pritchard is a winner.