Controversial decision has only helped Prince

Epiphanny Prince has been no stranger to drawing controversial headlines.

She and Ed Grezinsky, her high school coach at Murry Bergtraum, came under fire four years ago when she set the national record with 113 points in one game, a contest the Lady Blazers won by more than 100 points. She was also part of the Rutgers squad that was the victim of insensitive remarks by radio deejay Don Imus.

And last summer Prince became one of the first female players to leave college early to play professionally overseas when she departed before her senior season. It wasn’t a popular decision among pundits.

But unlike it did for Brandon Jennings, her status has not dropped. Prince projected to be a top-five pick in the WNBA Draft lst week, and she was, taken No. 4 by the Chicago Sky.

“I can see out of sight, maybe out of mind, but not a player like Epiphanny Prince,” ESPN analyst Carolyn Peck said. “She’s such a talent, and with what she was able to do as a college player, you couple that with the experience she’s getting as a professional player, I think just raises her stock.”

Prince has nothing but rave reviews for her experience with Turkey’s Botas-Spor. The 5-foot-9 point guard honed her skills on the ball in her year away from home.

“I think coming over here helped me to be more of a vocal leader and be more of a point guard and knowing when to pass more,” Prince said. “[It helped me know] when I am supposed to score and get everybody else involved. Playing over here has been physical for me and has helped me a lot finishing around the basket. It just helped my game to elevate to the next level.”

The Fort Greene native said the decision to leave was extremely difficult, especially when she had to sit down with Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer to break her the bad news. But Prince felt like she was spinning her wheels in college and was looking for new experiences.

“The decision was definitely hard and Coach Stringer was always a second mom to me,” said Prince, who led Bergtraum to four PSAL city titles and Rutgers to the 2007 national title game. “It was hard just to face her and tell her that I was leaving her and all my teammates and all my friends. It was something that me and my family thought would be the best for me, especially to mature more and not be a mommy and daddy’s girl. At Rutgers every opportunity I got I was always trying to go home. That was something I wanted to do to better myself as a person and better my game.”

The latter has certainly occurred, according to experts. Jennings, now of the Milwaukee Bucks, set the standard for the overseas experiment when he went to Europe after high school. He fell to 10th in the draft, but is averaging 15.5 points and 5.9 assists per game as a rookie. Prince is expected to make a similar impact.

“I think Prince is the cream of the crop for the guard class,” said Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, whose team has the second and third picks in the draft. “She can go as high as three, as low as four. She is going to go pretty early. She has separated herself. I think playing in Europe is going to be helpful to her. She is just talented. She knows how to score the ball. She knows how to play. She has that ‘it’ factor. She will be an awfully good player.”