Professional basketball player
Small forward Tayshaun Prince has been a linchpin of the Detroit Pistons teams that have placed near the top of the National Basketball Association (NBA) standings ever since Prince joined the team in 2002. The Pistons, who won the NBA championship in 2004, have been unusual among the league's top teams in that they have for the most part lacked individual superstars; they have succeeded by drawing on teamwork, planning, and on-court intelligence. All these qualities were hallmarks of Prince's play. "He is willing to do whatever we need him to do, and that sometimes changes game to game," Prince's teammate Chauncey Billups told Sean Deveney in the Sporting News in 2005. "He does a lot of things people don't notice, that don't go into the box score. But people who watch us all the time know he's our MVP."
A native of Compton, California, Tayshaun Durell Prince was born on February 28, 1980. He grew up in a two-parent household with a brother and sister; his older brother, Tommie, played basketball for Pepperdine University near Los Angeles. Tayshaun Prince began to stand out from Compton's crowd of basketball players as a member of the varsity squad at Dominguez High School in Compton. Over his three seasons, the Dominguez team notched a 96-9 record and a state championship in Prince's junior year. As a senior, in 1998, he was named a McDonald's All-American.
Enrolling at the University of Kentucky, the lanky six-foot, nine-inch Prince, who weighed just 184 pounds, was advised by team trainers to bulk up. He put on thirty-five pounds through a combination of weightlifting and a high-calorie diet, which still left him on the slender side for a player contemplating an NBA career. Nevertheless, he felt uncomfortable. "I just felt it was too much weight gained too fast for my body," he told Mitch Albom in the Detroit Free Press in 2007. "So I lost some of it." Prince's weight—he has said that his skinny frame is the result of sheer metabolism—has been a recurring issue in his career, but his grace on the court and his effective use of his seven-foot arm span have won coaches over. "Tayshaun has been told all his life that he needs to add muscle," personal trainer Joe Abunassar told Deveney. "He does not have that kind of body, and he never will. If all of the sudden he got big and thick, that would hurt his game." In the NBA in 2008, Prince weighed in at about 215 pounds.
At Kentucky Prince got into every game as a freshman, starting eleven of them, and his college accomplishments only mushroomed after that. As a sophomore he scored in double figures twenty-three times and was named to the all-Southeastern Conference Second Team. After his junior year, when the Associated Press named him to its All-America Second Team, he was ready to enter the NBA draft but decided to remain at Kentucky, play his senior year, and finish his degree. In the 2001-02 season Prince led the Wildcats in scoring with a 17.5-point-per-game average, and in May of 2002 he was graduated from Kentucky with a sociology major and the seventh-place spot in Kentucky's all-time list of top scorers with 1,775 points.
Prince was drafted in the first round (as the twenty-third pick overall) by the Pistons in June of 2002. He had little playing time during his rookie year, but his defensive role expanded in the 2003-04 season. He played in all eighty-two games, starting eighty of them, and evolved into both a defensive and an offensive threat. With a strong stretch run—he made 60.6 percent of his shots from the field in the last thirteen games of the season—he accompanied the Pistons to the NBA postseason series. Prince was one of those players who come to public notice with a single brilliant play: His moment came in the second game of the 2004 NBA Eastern Conference finals, when he seemed to come out of nowhere to block an easy game-tying layup by the Indiana Pacers' Reggie Miller.
The move was a pure representation of Prince's style. He has what sportswriters call a high basketball IQ. Not the most powerful player, the best shooter, or the fastest defender in the NBA, he has shown a knack for thinking two or three steps ahead of his adversaries and for figuring out where a gap on the court needs to be filled. Partly his skills were the result of sheer hustle, motivated by the challenge of retorting to low expectations. "I do play with a chip on my shoulder, and everyone assumes it is because I went so low in the draft," Prince told Deveney. "That's not it. The draft turned out good because I wound up here and won a championship. But even before the draft, people were telling me I could not play in this league. That got me mad, and it motivates me—wanting to prove all those people wrong."
All of Prince's determination and versatility came to the fore in the finals of the 2004 NBA championship, when he shut down the offense of feared Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant and was a key contributor to the Pistons' upset victory over the Lakers in five games. The following year the well-oiled Pistons had a strong chance to repeat as NBA champions, and Prince contributed several career bests to the team effort: He notched up his top scoring average (14.7 points per game), field goal percentage (.487), and free throw percentage (.807), among others. In a hard-fought seven-game championship series, the Pistons fell to the San Antonio Spurs as Prince struggled to cope with the hot shooting of Spurs guard Manu Ginóbili. Prince found consolation after the season's end—in the summer of 2005 he married Farah Brown, whom he had met in college when he reluctantly agreed to a date to watch the animated film Tarzan.
Prince has been remarkably consistent as a scorer, averaging close to fourteen points per game every year between 2004 and 2008. In the summer of 2007 he signed a three-year contract with USA Basketball, playing in international contests and becoming part of the pool of players from which the U.S. Olympic basketball team is chosen. In 2008 he accompanied the Pistons to the NBA playoffs for a sixth consecutive year. He was a natural on-court leader for the Pistons and was mentioned as a potential team captain in the future.
At a Glance …
Born Tayshaun Durell Prince on February 28, 1980, in Compton, CA; son of Thomas and Diane Prince; married Farah Brown, 2005. Education: University of Kentucky, bachelor's degree in sociology, 2002.
Career: Detroit Pistons, small forward, 2002—.
Awards: McDonald's All-American, Dominguez High School, Compton, CA, 1998; George Yardley Award, Los Angeles Times, best high school player in Southern California; named to All-Defensive Second Team, NBA, 2004-07.
Addresses: Office—c/o Detroit Pistons, 5 Championship Dr., Auburn Hills, MI 48326-1753. Web—http://www.tprince22.com.
Detroit Free Press, May 24, 2007; May 26, 2007.
Sporting News, May 13, 2005, p. 10.
Sports Illustrated, June 13, 2005, p. 50.
USA Today, February 20, 2007, p. 8C.
"Biography," Tayshaun Prince official Web site, http://www.tprince22.com/ssp/biography (accessed March 12, 2008).
"Player Profile: Tayshaun Prince," National Basketball Association, http://www.nba.com/draft2002/profiles/tayshaun_prince.html (accessed March 12, 2008).
"Tayshaun Prince," National Basketball Association, http://www.nba.com/playerfile/tayshaun_prince/bio.html (accessed March 12, 2008).
—James M. Manheim