With senior Brandon Watts graduating this spring, the next Brave that is positioned and primed to rewrite the program and conference record books is sophomore Akia Pruitt.
Pruitt had an impressive debut season as a freshman, he cracked the starting line up out of the gate and won MVP honors in the PBC conference tournament. He followed that up with an even better sophomore campaign. In his second year dawning the Black and Gold, Pruitt once again led the team in offensive, defensive and total rebounds. He finished the season with the most blocks by a wide margin, yet again.
While he did not repeat as conference tournament MVP, he followed up and received all-conference and defensive player of the year honors in his second. As a freshman, he finished fourth on the team in scoring with 365 points that year.
Pruitt ended his second season with 411 points, which was the third highest on the team. He reached and surpassed the 20-point threshold five times this season and racked up four double-doubles.
His best scoring game came against USC Aiken with a 25-point output. Pruitt’s best rebounding games came against Mount Olive and Georgia College, he snagged a season-high 14 boards.
Head coach Ben Miller wholeheartedly believes that Pruitt’s potential has no ceiling. He says that his next star player will utilize a unique blend of athleticism and measurables, coupled with his energy on the court, to further separate himself from the pack and dominate going forward.
“He had a phenomenal sophomore year, but I know he’s hungry to work hard, get a little stronger this offseason and comeback being an even more improved player going forward,” Miller said. “The sky is the limit for him because of his ability but also his work ethic.”
Pruitt believes that as a team, the Braves reached the goals they set coming into the season by having a deeper run into the NCAA tournament and building on last year’s success. Despite leading the team in rebounds for the second consecutive season, Pruitt feels that he should have hauled in more.
“I feel like my rebounding went down, but overall my feel for the game improved and I had more of an impact than I did my freshman year,” Pruitt said. He said he is very fortunate and extremely blessed that he has been able to enjoy so much success so early in his collegiate career.
Not many individuals in his shoes can say they’ve been able to be a part of back-to-back championship teams, and he hopes that the program can keep its ascending trajectory. Chemistry and cohesion amongst teammates are key in a team’s ability to come together and play well in unison over the course of a season.
Knowing where others players will be is so they can set one another for success on the court, is dependent upon bonds and trust. Pruitt expressed that what separated last year’s successful team from this season’s historic bunch was the fact that the team returned the majority of its core, which then made the jelling process smoother and happen earlier than usual.
The sophomore takes tremendous pride in being recognized as not just one of the best defenders on his own team, but also in the entire conference with his defensive accolades this season. He said he likes putting extra emphasis on his defense and using his length and athleticism to his advantage because he believes that defense wins games.
His goals heading into next season mirror the ones he set for himself coming into this year. Pruitt hopes to average double-doubles in points and rebounds as well as leading the conference in blocks.
Because he emerged as a difference-maker in his first year, teams began keying in on him more during his second year, but Pruitt still intends on achieving and improving on those very same goals. While he didn’t post impressive statistics in the regionals tournament in the postseason, he had success in the PBC tournament.
The sophomore averaged about seven rebounds and just over 17-points per game. Pruitt cited the team’s home game against the Patriots of Francis Marion University as his favorite game of the season.
The Braves played the Patriots a grand total of four times in the regular and postseason. He says when the two teams take the same court it is always a tough matchup and they have developed a rivalry after so many close bouts with them.
Over the past two years, he has observed what is takes to be leader as well as what it means to be a team captain from observing and learning under the tutelage of this year’s senior class. He looked up to them and aspires to live up to the examples they set on and off the court as role models.
“Out of the colleges that I had, it was the best fit for me, Pruitt said. “I didn’t want to go to anywhere that was too big and when I got here it felt like a family, everybody was nice, everybody knew each other, and it was just love all around you.”
He desires to continue the program’s proud tradition of success and rewrite the record books with his own insignia like his predecessors have done.
“I want to do everything that I can, every accolade that I can achieve and everything that is possible I want to go for, Pruitt said. “I just want to be great at everything, so I just want to continue to work hard and try to reach everything I can.”