It’s three days after he played in what could be the final college basketball game of his career and Collin Pryor of St. Charles is back in the weight room at Northern State University in Aberdeen, S.D.
“I’m big into the fitness thing,” he said. “I’m big into working out and staying healthy. In the past five years, I’ve learned a lot about health and nutrition.”
Pryor, a fifth-year senior who double majored in biology and psychology, has another reason for staying in shape.
He doesn’t believe his basketball career is over.
“I have a bright future not only in academics, but athletics still,” he said. “It’s definitely an opportunity for me to go overseas and play professionally there.”
The St. Charles East graduate, a 6-foot-6, 190-pound forward, thinks that option is even more realistic after a senior season at Northern State in which he averaged 16.2 points and 7.7 rebounds a game, both team highs. The Wolves finished the season 20-11 overall and 14-8 in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, but it’s virtually guaranteed they will not be selected to participate in the NCAA Division II national tournament.
“I think this was probably the best year from a team standpoint that we’ve had in five years,” Pryor said, noting that it was the first 20-win season in his five years at the school.
Aberdeen is a town of 26,000 people near the North Dakota border. Pryor acknowledges there was “absolutely” some culture shock moving to a rural prairie village from the Chicago metro area, saying there was “definitely an adjustment process.
“As an 18-year-old, I came out here and I thought I had the world figured out, and I quickly learned that was not the case.”
Pryor attracted the attention of Northern State at the beginning of his senior year at St. Charles East, thanks to a coaching acquaintance who knew an assistant coach at the university. But he also attracted the attention of NCAA Division I Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa.
“Unfortunately, the head coach [Billy Taylor] left and took a job at Ball State,” Pryor said. “That sort of fell through.”
Dayton, another D-I school, also expressed interest.
“Again, that kind of fell through,” Pryor said.
He said “There were some other D-II schools up in Michigan and a bunch of D-III schools,” that he also considered, but “Northern State was definitely the school I had my eyes on I guess, and vice-versa.”
The decision proved to be a good one for both parties. After redshirting his first year at the school, Pryor moved into the starting lineup as a freshman and averaged 10.8 points and 5.8 rebounds a game. As a sophomore, he was a first-team all-conference selection after averaging 15.2 points and 8.5 rebounds a contest.
He was slowed by a knee injury during his junior campaign, but bounced back strong this season, scoring a career-high 26 points in a victory over Minnesota-Moorhead. He also led the team in free-throw shooting, making 88 percent of his attempts. His play once again earned him first-team all-conference accolades.
“Five years – it goes by fast,” Pryor reflected. “People tell you to take time to enjoy it and not to take any of it for granted and I definitely don’t. … [But] it’s not until you reach that final year that you gain that true appreciation.”
Pryor doesn’t know what town he will call home in a few months.
“I have applied to grad school at South Dakota State University. It’s a couple of hours from here,” he said. “If basketball doesn’t work out, I’ll go on and get my master’s in athletic training, and we’ll see where it goes from there.”
• Dennis D. Jacobs writes the On Campus column for the Kane County Chronicle. To suggest a local college athlete worthy of recognition, email him at email@example.com.