Omar Prewitt says the heartbreak of William & Mary’s loss to Delaware in last year’s CAA championship did not hit him initially.
The sophomore says he looked at the Tribe’s distraught seniors in the locker room after the loss and didn’t understand how much the win would have meant to the only CAA program to never make the NCAA tournament.
After scoring 16 points on 6 of 11 shooting in the Tribe’s 72-59 win over Elon in the second round of the CAA tournament on Saturday, it’s clear he now gets it.
“We can’t be a great team unless Omar plays well,” coach Tony Shaver said. “He’s that important to us.”
Prewitt wasn’t the only member of the Tribe who came to play.
CAA Player of the Year Marcus Thornton led the team in scoring with 17 points and Daniel Dixon contributed 12 points on 4 of 9 shooting from behind the arc.
Defensive Player of the Year Terry Tarpey had another great all around game with eight points, nine rebounds, five assists and three steals.
“We got Terry, we got the MVP on our team but Omar takes us to a new level if he’s playing well,” Shaver said.
Prewitt had struggled at the tail-end of the regular season with a shooting percentage of just 26 percent in the Tribe’s last three games. The last of those three was the 80-66 loss to the Damion Lee-less Drexel Dragons.
“If one of us is off, it really hurts,” Prewitt said. “I wouldn’t say I’m the key factor but if I’m not playing as well, it really hurts our team a lot.”
However, during a stretch in the second half on Saturday, Prewitt was they key for the Tribe.
Elon, down by 13 with just over 14 minutes to play in the half, went with a zone defense in an attempt to stop the hot-shooting Tribe.
Seconds later, Prewitt put his head down and earned a bucket on a hard drive to push the lead to 50-35.
After an Elon score, Prewitt again drove to the basket and scored.
“He was the one player during that stretch when they went zone, who really drove for us and got a couple easy baskets,” Shaver said.
At the nine minute mark, Omar turned a Sean Sheldon steal into a dunk that would have made Avon Barksdale, Stringer Bell and all of the Low Rises shake and crumble.
He’s improved that physical side of his game since his Rookie of the Year campaign last year.
According to his teammates, Prewitt hit the gym this off-season with a determination to get stronger and expand his skill set.
“That helped improve his overall game and his decision making is getting better,” said Tarpey. “It’s just great to have a player like him on your team.”
It is that mental strength that has impressed Thornton the most.
“Each year the game kind of slows down for you a little bit,” Thornton said. “He sees the floor better, sees certain things he wouldn’t of seen last year.
“Just his overall improvement as a player, I’m really proud of him and it’s great to see the way he played today.”