Taurean Prince Finally Makes it to Brooklyn

New Net nearly called the borough home for his college career

LAS VEGAS — Taurean Prince’s first path to Brooklyn fell through, and his second was a pit stop.

Now the versatile forward is ready to call the borough home for a while, with the trade that brings him to the Nets from the Atlanta Hawks to the Nets becoming official over the weekend. He was courtside Friday evening and Sunday afternoon to watch the Nets Summer League squad in action.

Prince learned he was bound for Brooklyn well before the trade became official this weekend, and in the interim his roster of future teammates changed dramatically with the addition of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan and more.

“I knew I was coming to a winning team and being able to have a chance to make the playoffs and that’s what was in my mind and now that we have who we have, now we’re thinking championship of course,” said Prince. “That’s what you live for as a basketball player, to be able to play in those opportunities and take advantage of them.”

Back in 2011, Prince committed to play his college ball at LIU-Brooklyn, its campus located less than a mile down Flatbush Avenue from the then-under-construction Barclays Center. It was a long way from home for the Texas native, but the Blackbirds had built a Northeast Conference power led by players from Prince’s San Antonio district. They had so much success, winning NCAA Tournament games in consecutive seasons, that coach Jim Ferry left for a higher-level job after the 2011-12 season, leading Prince to re-open his recruitment. He ended up at a higher level too, going on to play for Baylor in the Big 12.

“It was definitely a place that I was going to come,” said Prince. “It was real until that situation happened. I’ve always had love and ties in the New York area being I have some aunts and uncles from my mom’s side down here.”

As an NBA rookie, Prince was briefly assigned to the Long Island Nets in the G League, averaging 20.0 points over five games.

“I was here a couple weeks,” said Prince. “Realistically a week and a half. I think I played about four or five games. It was actually a great time. Good people and actually some of the staff that were on that team are actually on the Nets now and some are on other teams doing great things.”

If anything has defined Prince’s basketball career, it’s that steady climb, the consistent progression that shows a player committed to elevating his game. In his final season of high school he rose from a low Division 1 recruit to a Power 5 conference player. At Baylor he averaged 6.4 minutes in 24 games as a freshman. As a senior he started all 34 games, averaged 16.9 points and 6.1 rebounds, and was named to the All-Big 12 first team before being selected 12th overall in the 2016 NBA Draft.

In his first season in the NBA, Prince averaged 5.7 points and 16.8 minutes over 59 games, with that brief G League stint. Over the last two seasons he’s averaged 13.8 points per game as a regular starter, including all 82 games in 2017-18.

“Just focusing on the little things,” said Prince. “I think it’s more about the correctives and the things you do with your body that allows you to be the best basketball player you can be. We’re going to get in the gym every day. Not everybody likes to lift. Not everybody likes to work on their body to be a great ballplayer, so those are more the things that I focus on.”

As he continues to push forward, he’ll find himself in a familiar environment. He played his first two seasons in Atlanta under coach Mike Budenholzer. Nets coach Kenny Atkinson was a Budenholzer assistant to left the Hawks to become Brooklyn’s head coach just before Prince arrived.

“He coached you hard and demanded what he wanted,” said Prince of Budenholzer. “And he also gave you the freedom as a basketball player to explore your imagination and be who you wanted to be. I think that goes well with Coach Kenny. They just allow you to be a good player and as long as you play defense and play hard and do the right things, they allow you to flourish.”

If the environment is similar, Atkinson’s system has evolved since he first arrived in Brooklyn. But Prince has admired and enjoyed it from afar and looks forward to fitting into it. He’s been a versatile forward, playing primarily the 3 but sometimes the 4. With the shape of the Brooklyn roster and the style of play, there could be more time at the 4, but he’s comfortable with that, particularly his ability, at 6-foot-8 and 220 pounds, to defend players at that spot.

“It’s kind of similar to what I was doing my first two years; I call it constructed open gym in a way,” said Prince of the Brooklyn offense. “Just able to be yourself and read and react basketball. Play defense and turn it into offense and then you get games where you’re really good.”

The next step is acclimating with new teammates, something he’s already begun and plans on focusing on throughout the summer.

“Just watching a lot of film on my players, my teammates,” said Prince. “Trying to get the tendencies of what they do and really know their games as much as I want to know mine. I think that builds chemistry and makes you gel quicker. I think we have time as far as getting better together, but the faster the better in my opinion.”

Now he’s ready to finally call Brooklyn home.

“I think the city itself is a great city,” said Prince. “Very strong-minded city. I feel like that’s me in a sense. I’m just ready to really hoop.”

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