How a year in Dodge City helped Nick Pringle prepare for the big dance

Birmingham, Ala. Before Nick Pringle hit the brightest stage of college basketball, he had to make a stop in Dodge, Kansas City.

Nicknamed the “Cowboy Capital of the World,” the midwestern city’s prime strip features Applebees, an IHOP and countless Mexican restaurants all blending together in a timeless homage to the Old West. Dodge City doesn’t offer much in terms of social life, but it’s the perfect place to establish a blue-collar identity.

“It was a place in the middle of nowhere,” Pringle said. “There was really nothing to do there but grind. I got that dog in me from there. I just learned how to be a better person there and that helped me in the long run.”

Playing in a 1,500-seat community college arena was not part of Pringle’s plan. Seabrook, South Carolina, spent his senior season in college four hours from home at Wofford College. In 15 games with the Terriers, he averaged 2.0 points and 2.1 rebounds.

Those numbers should have been better, Pringle admits, noting that he “never really locked in and didn’t buy much.” This lack of discipline spilled over into the classroom, where his struggles eventually forced him to put his name in the transfer gate.

His limited playing time coupled with less-than-stellar academic marks restrict Pringle’s offers mostly to junior college programs. It also opened the door for Jake Williams to make his move.

Williams, who was the head coach of Dodge City at the time, hired Pringle out of high school while working at USC Salkehatchie. After originally losing to Wofford, he wasted no time in getting down to the 6-foot-9 forward.

Williams contacted Brengle and his AAU coach laying out his case for why he should stick to Dodge City while developing a step-by-step plan that would get him back to the Division I level.

I told him, “I don’t care if you average two points and two rebounds at Wafford, if you do what you’re supposed to do academically, you’ll get every I-Division in the country wanting to recruit you.” “

Pringle was headed to Dodge City with pressure to prove himself in the class and on the field. This, along with his hunger to return to the top level of college basketball ignited the flame that fueled him over the next year.

“He had an intensity and an edge about him in high school — it just grew,” said Williams. “I think when things didn’t pan out at Wofford, it really put a chip on his shoulder. He had an edge, a pop, and a sloppy attitude towards him. He had a really good drive in high school and played with a lot of energy that I thought was infectious. I think the energy It really went up after Wford. He had that drive, this chip on his shoulder and his energy really helped.”

Pringle’s drive helped him record seven double-doubles, including a season-high 20 rebounds against Hutchison Community College. Dodge City, led by its powerful forward, posted a 30-5 record, earning a birth to the NJCAA D1 National Championship.

Pringle finished his stint at JUCO averaging 9.2 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. He was named KJCCC Co-Defensive Player of the Year and was named to the conference’s All-Defensive Team. His production on the ground led him to become the #1 ranked JUCO player in the nation, which came with a slew of Division I offers from Alabama to Georgia. Pringle fell in with the Crimson Tide and brought his hunger to Tuscaloosa with him.

It took Alabama forward Charles Pediaco every single meeting on the court to figure that out.

“He’s really strong and he’s really competitive,” Pediaco said. “He’ll definitely let you know that. I feel like it helps sharpen my brain.”

His intensity is what he is known for in the locker room and throughout the season there were times when he boiled over with some of his teammates. Bediako and Noah Gurley said they “got in” with Pringle during training because of his intensity and his will to win in everything.

As for Bediako, he’s only happy with Pringle at Alabama and just has to go up against him in practice.

“I was surprised he got out of Goku,” Pediaco said. “He’s a good player, a great player in fact. He can go anywhere to play, but he chose to play with us and that just shows how much he’s bought into this team. He’s not worried about his minutes and is only ready when the time comes.”

It was a bit of a wait for Pringle before he got his chance to shine.

Through the first three months of the season, Pringle appeared in 25 games and scored 10 or more points in only three of those contests. He averaged just seven minutes per game, most of which was relief from Pediako when he got into serious trouble or if he needed a break.

But against Georgia, Pringle got a chance to unleash that power on the opponent. That night in front of over 15,000 Crimson Tide fans, Pringle had his career game with 19 points and 12 rebounds.

When the striker got to the ground there was nothing the Bulldogs could do to stop him as they were effectively shot 9-for-12.

Noah Clooney said, “Personally, he’s probably the hardest guy to guard as a big guy. He’s strong, he’s super athletic. You have to block him and his momentum, if he gets off the ground, consider that a two point.”

Since then, Pringle’s role has grown as he became one of the first players off the bench and was usually called upon to launch the team with thunderous dives or by taking over. With his confidence growing, it was only a matter of time before the striker had another explosive match.

Pringle’s opportunity came Thursday against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

With Alabama needing a spark to secure a first-round win in the NCAA Tournament, coach Nate Oats turned to JUCO’s never-before-seen player. In 20 minutes, Pringle scored 19 points and added 15 rebounds in the win.

“I was really happy to see him play well in the NCAA Tournament game because there were games where he didn’t play much at all,” Oates said. “He got frustrated, as all really good players do, without playing much, but he handled it well.” It just kept getting better.

“Happy to see him play. Happy to be able to rest Charles a little bit. Hopefully we can build on that, get some confidence in, so when we need him he’s got a lot of confidence to play well for us.”

It was a shining moment for him on the biggest stage, but all Williams could see was the same talented kid he saw in South Carolina. Now Pringle is an inspiration to every casual basketball player with dreams of stepping into the national spotlight.

Williams said: “It’s great to see somebody had to figure it out and find a way to get to where they are because it just means more that way. Everyone’s story and path is different. The thing with Nick is he wasn’t handed it. He had to earn it.” Really getting to be where he is today. I’m really proud of him.”

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