Gabriel Michael Pruitt was born on April 19, 1986 in Los Angeles, California. His nickname is "Smilin' Gabe" because of the grin that rarely leaves his face. Unlike many of our young players who had a tough childhood, Gabe had a very stable home growing up.
He averaged 15.0 points and 6.0 assists as a sophomore at Centennial High in 2002, leading his team to the California Division III state final. He transferred to Westchester High School in Los Angeles and sat out his junior season at Westchester because of high school transfer rules. He averaged 22 points per game as a senior at Westchester, earning Parade All-America fourth team, Roundball All-America, Student Sports All-America special mention, Los Angeles Times All-City and South Bay/Westside first team and South Bay Daily Breeze Player of the Year honors. He was listed as the No. 20 prep player in the country by Basketball Times after his senior year and among the top 20 prep point guards by Athlon Sports and Insiders.com entering his senior year.
From High School, he went on to the University of South California (USC). In his freshman season, he earned team co-MVP honors along with fellow freshman Nick Young as the pair put together two of the best freshman seasons by Trojan baskeball players in school history. Pruitt led the Trojans in points, scoring average, three-point percentage, assists, and steals en route to being named to the Pac-10 All-Freshman team. His three-point field goal percentage set a school record.
His sophomore season, he started 25 games for USC and finished second on the team and fifth in the Pac-10 with a 16.9 scoring average, while grabbing 4.0 rebounds and dishing out 3.1 assists per game. He was named to the All-Pac-10 first team along with teammate Nick Young. Pruitt had played the point his first season at USC but moved to the shooting guard position as freshman Ryan Francis took over the PG spot.
Francis, who would have been a sophomore point guard at USC in the 2006-07 season, was shot in May 2006 while visiting his family in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The murder occurred when the 19-year-old Francis was sitting in the back of a vehicle that was stopped at a traffic light, and the driver was the apparent target of the gunman. Following the death of Francis, Pruitt moved back to the point guard position for the Trojans last season when he averaged 12.5 points, 4.3 assists and 2.8 rebounds. The death of his friend hit Pruitt hard and he wore a wristband with Francis' name on it as he played during summer league.
Pruitt left USC after his Junior year to enter the NBA. Like Davis, he had gotten promises from teams that he would be picked in the first round but he slipped to the second round where the Celtics drafted him with the 32nd pick. Pruitt, had not worked out for the Celtics and had only been to Massachusetts once before when he played on a championship team in the Boston Shootout at Northeastern University. Because he played both guard spots in college, he is comfortable playing both spots and he will be a versatile combo guard for the Celtics. It remains to be seen whether he will be able to move into and hold down the back up PG spot this season as a rookie, though.
Like Ray Allen, Pruitt had worn #34 and had to choose another number with the Celtics since 34 is obviously taken. He chose #13 which previously belonged to the Delonte West who filled a similar role as combo guard with the Celtics previously.
NBAdraft.net lists his strengths as:
Has great size and quickness at the point guard position ... Very athletic, plays above the rim, real bouncy ... Smart player with a good understanding of the game ... Has nice offensive skills with the ability to drive or pull up ... Has range on his shot and is an excellent 3 point shooter ... Good defender with quick hands and nice anticipation ... Excellent balance and agility ... Clutch player who steps up in close games ...
One incident in Pruitt's college career that is he not likely to forget but would like to happened in a game against University of California Berkeley on March 4, 2006. Cal was in contention for the PAC-10 title and the NCAA tournament was at stake, so the USC game was a must-win game. Some enterprising Cal students created a fictional UCLA personna by the name of Victoria. They then engaged Pruitt in IM's with "Victoria" the week before the UCLA-USC game. They sent Gabe pictures and things got serious. Pruitt and several of his teammates made plans to go to Westwood after the game so that they could party with Victoria and her friends.
When Pruitt took his first trip to the free throw line early in the game, the Cal student section hollered in unison: "VIC-TOR-IA, VIC-TOR-IA," and then yelled out Pruitt's telephone number, which he had given to Victoria online to facilitate the meeting. Pruitt glanced back at the crowd in horror and bewilderment before clanking his free throws. The Cal students were on him the whole game and he was understandably very embarrassed. He was a 79% free throw shooter for the season, but he was so shaken by the chants that he hit only three out of 13 shots the whole game. Cal beat USC by 11 for the season sweep, in part due to the Cal fans' devious prank. Reports say that Pruitt was a good sport about it in the end. Something tells me that this is something that he will never live down, though.
At 6'4" and 170 pounds, Gabe Pruitt is a slender guard with good size for a point guard. His main focus this summer is getting his body ready for the NBA season by putting on some muscle and getting stronger. He has good quickness and acceleration and his point guard skills improved greatly over his 3 year career at USC. He is very effective with the cross-over dribble to shake defenders. He is a good scorer and shoots with range, but can be streaky. He is an active defender who plays the passing lanes well. With the loss of Delonte West, Pruitt seems like the perfect player to take his role on the team. Here's hoping that he can be ready to fill the back up PG role as that will go a long way toward making this team a contender this season.