Jacob profiles Taurean Prince’s journey from the streets of San Antonio to the bright lights of Atlanta…
Homeless on the streets outside San Antonio, the 12-year-old would daze into a light sleep as he sat on the sidewalk with his back leaning against a wall. He would dream of a better future, one in which he’d have a bed to sleep on and have the comfort of knowing where his next meal would come from.
His parents divorced young and while his mother had a home in San Antonio, the boy refused to abandon his father, who was struggling to get back on his feet after a handful of bad breaks in nearby San Angelo, Texas.
“I never told my mom, not once,” the no-longer 12-year-old revealed to CSNPhilly.com in June. “I knew she would have tried to take me away from my dad, and I didn’t want to leave my dad alone. I didn’t want him to be lonely, so I stuck by his side.”
So the father and son slept on the streets when there wasn’t a spare room at the Salvation Army, scavenging for food wherever they could find it. In many ways, those days of uncertainty and hunger led to one ultimate certainty – the kid’s appetite for success would never be deterred.
Fast-forward nearly a decade and Taurean Prince is about to turn 22. Preparing to start a long career in the NBA, Prince has finally found stability off the court – the culmination of a blueprint he drew up in middle school.
“I knew I wanted to be successful and have a chance to help my family in any way possible,” Prince told Hawks.com at the Vegas Summer League. “I really started to take basketball seriously going into seventh grade.”
But even after Prince committed himself to basketball and quickly sprouted from 5-foot-9 to 6-foot-6, there were other obstacles he had to overcome.
Struggles in Spanish class as a freshman forced him to sit out his first high school basketball season. As a sophomore, Prince was assigned to JV – a disappointing oversight from the coaches that would’ve led many other players to quit on the spot. Prince merely used the relegation as motivation. By the time his junior season rolled around, Prince had developed into a true two-way monster and quickly became the star of his varsity team. Still, because of his unestablished track record, his recruiting trail was uncharacteristically tepid.
After failing to secure a commitment from a school in a power conference, Prince signed a letter of intent with Long Island University, a little-know basketball program that represented one of his only guaranteed opportunities to play Division I hoops. Not all was perfect there though, as he had to back out of his commitment after LIU’s coach left the team prior to Prince’s arrival. He reopened his long recruiting search and eventually chose to stay in-state, attending Baylor University in Waco, Texas – where he was promised little from the coaching staff in terms of playing time. Sure enough, Prince’s work ethic enabled him to climb up the depth chart quickly, elevating from benchwarmer status as a freshman into an All-Big 12 superstar as a senior.
Now, nearly 10 years removed from his nights on the streets, the soon-to-be 22-year-old is now a foundational building block for the Atlanta Hawks organization.
“They’re a big defensive team, which is where I love to play,” Prince said. “I bring that energy. The offense is really a free offense. I call it like a structured-freedom offense. You’re able to do a lot of things out of it, and everyone gets touches and everybody stays happy.”
Watching Prince play, it’s obvious why the Hawks were eager to select him with their first lottery pick since Al Horford went third overall in 2007. Simply put, he’s a two-way threat who’s equally capable of locking down an opposing team’s top scorer on defense as he is of catching fire from the perimeter on offense.
Always known as a defense-first player, Prince started to put up gaudy offensive stats as an upperclassman: last season, Prince was one of just five players in the entire NCAA to average 20+ points, 7.5+ rebounds and 3.0+ assists per 40 minutes, all while shooting 36.1% from the perimeter.
In an NBA where two-way wings have become the league’s premium asset, the Hawks are excited to have a player like Prince. As for Prince, he’s just happy to prove his value in any way possible as a rookie.
“I’m willing to do anything coach wants me to do,” Prince revealed. “Whether it be rebounding or hitting open shots or guarding somebody or sharing the ball. Whatever’s needed.”
Throughout Prince’s life, commitment and loyalty have been put to the test in the most extreme of circumstances. So when the rookie says he willing to do whatever’s needed to help his team on the basketball court, Hawks fans have a reason to get excited.
Story by Jacob Eisenberg