Prince’s charm: Senior forward emerges as fan-favorite for Bears

Photo credit: Penelope Shirey

Fans love to root for athletes and coaches who take a blue-collar approach to the game. They love to cheer for the underdog, the player who didn’t have the accolades or national attention from the start. They like the players that have worked their way into the spotlight, one rep, one practice, one game at a time. Baylor senior forward Taurean Prince checks all these boxes.

When Prince was a freshman in high school, he made the move from San Angelo, Texas to San Antonio. Attending Earl Warren High School, Prince was a 5-foot-9 guard. He worked hard but was not the same physical presence that he is today.

However, between his freshman and sophomore year, Prince’s coaches said he grew to 6-foot-4 and made the jump from the freshman team to varsity. Despite seeing limited playing time during his sophomore year, Prince showed promise and by his junior year had grown to 6-foot-7 and earned a starting spot.

Although he did grow considerably between his freshman and junior year, Prince said that was not the only reason for his success. His work ethic and drive to be the best was what transformed him into a formidable competitor his junior year. Prince always played extremely hard and ran the floor with the speed of a guard, despite being a large forward, his coaches said.

“It’s just that will. If you want to run the floor, you’re going to run the floor,” Prince said. “I could be 7 feet tall, 280 pounds and I would still get down the floor just as fast as the other big man.”

Prince said his mentality and work ethic propelled him to new heights during his senior year of high school.

Coming into his senior year, Prince had begun to garner attention from a few schools but was still not being heavily recruited. His coaches said he was often overlooked and was viewed as a three-star recruit. However, he eventually drew attention from Long Island University and committed early.

Prince led the Warren Warriors to the state semifinals averaging 21 points, 11 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game during his senior campaign. Needless to say, he began to gain attention for his talents, especially after playing exceptionally well in national tournaments against formidable opponents like Marcus Smart and Cameron Ridley.

After LIU’s head coach, Jim Ferry, accepted a coaching job elsewhere, Taurean de-committed from the university. He then started to receive interest from several universities, including the University Nebraska, Pepperdine University and Baylor. Prince made a visit to Waco and ultimately signed with the Baylor Bears.

Prince’s career at Baylor has played out much like his high school career. He entered as a slightly inconspicuous freshman who clearly had talent, but was not regarded as a blue-chip recruit. However, as time progressed, he continued to work hard, slowly transforming from freshman, to solid bench player, to leading scorer and star player.

However, Prince noted that the parallel between his high school career and college career is no coincidence.

“No coincidence at all,” Prince said. “Nobody ever gave me anything growing up. I always had to go get what I wanted. I bought my first bike, bought my first car, so I know how to work for things that I want, and I think that translates over into my game.”

Taurean’s high school coach, Jim Weaver, also attested to this work ethic, citing it as one of the most important things that separates him as a player.

“The thing that he’s got going for him that everyone appreciates is his work ethic,” Weaver said. “He’s not afraid to work hard.”

Although Prince has always expected the best of himself, and driven himself to work hard, he said he also thanks both coach Weaver and Baylor head coach Scott Drew for helping push that work ethic even further.

“You have to earn things. Neither coach gives you anything,” said Prince. “Coach Weaver was a real good coach and made us earn everything we ever wanted. He taught you how to go get stuff and work for it, instead of just giving it to you, which takes you a long way in college.”

Despite his rise to becoming the leader of the Baylor squad, it is not just his athletic ability or insatiable work ethic that sets Prince apart.

Although Weaver said he loves to talk about the improvements season in his former player’s perimeter game, or to brag about his ability to run the floor, it is his attitude that really makes him proud.

“He is just a positive guy. He was a fun guy to coach,” Weaver said. “You wouldn’t talk to any of the teachers or staff members at Warren that didn’t love him.”

Prince said he has worked to build a reputation of respect on and off the court, and is always gracious and respectful to his peers, authority figures and strangers alike.

“Character is everything,” Prince said. “I’m a yes sir, no sir type of guy, no matter who you are. It’s bigger than just basketball or bigger than you. You have to respect the people around you. They all make it happen.”

Although a winner on the court, many said that it is Prince’s character that propels him in life and makes him the leader that he is for the Baylor Bears.

Despite the fact that there is still work to be done in the 2015-2016 season Prince has already left his mark on Baylor basketball and will continue to do so moving forward.

From underdog freshman to star senior, Prince has not only gained fans’ respect, but he has demanded it.

Through grit, hard work and incredible athletic ability, Prince represents the reason to never doubt the under-the-radar player and to look at a man’s work ethic rather than just his star rating.