The Pistons' Prince:

Tweaking basketballs and building noble relationships amidst international competitors

By Tomi Morris Johnson

 tomij@wingcomltd.com        ©2003 WingcomLtd. All Rights Reserved.

 

June 11, 2003, Compton, CA…How does a black Prince from the hood of Compton, California royally tweak basketball gaming and role modeling into a “hooping” success against the new 2003 NBA draft picks?  By being talented, focused, competitive, and by surrounding himself with the right people.  That’s how NBA player Tayshaun Prince, who has neither had acting lessons nor been interviewed by Ebony, Black Enterprise, or the New York Times yet, will become the King of NBA basketball by the year of our Lord 2006.

 

Prince predicts the NBA will be picking more players from overseas which means stiff competition for USA players.

 

Tayshaun Prince, NBA forward for the Detroit Pistons, has just completed his rookie year and has flown back home to celebrate Father’s Day with his dad, Thomas Prince, Sr., and the rest of the Prince family.

 

 

Claiming himself a role model, Prince posed for 4-year old photographer Keagan Stromberg.

 

Although the Pistons lost in the playoffs, Prince has put the disappointment of past defeats in the back of his mind and is focusing on bettering his game, formulating a good financial plan, and balancing himself between a strong moral foundation and the lures of the high life in the NBA. Prince will also be able to use what he learned while majoring in Sociology at the University of Kentucky when competing against diverse, international players.

 

Prince, who is away from home 80% of the year, does not have to worry about scrunching his 6’9”, 215 pound frame into a regular airplane while traveling from coast to coast because the NBA and his agent take care of all that, flying players around in a Boeing 737 equipped with extra leg room.  Freckled-faced, nice, and youthful, Prince seems a little jet lagged on his second day back in the outskirts of LA where he started his basketball career. On the other hand, maybe that is just the way he is - relaxed and reserved. In between questions, he continuously peers out the grilled, security door of his family’s living room to see who is coming down the sidewalk.

 

Mother Diane Prince, proud 5’11” mom with a motivational voice like a professional coach, says she wants people to look past Tay’s success as a basketball star to his outstanding moral character.  “What worked for my family while I was growing up also worked with my kids,” she said of the churchgoing upbringing she and her husband gave their three children.  Thomas, Jr. played semiprofessional basketball overseas, and daughter Tisha is a 2nd grade teacher.  Tayshaun is the baby.

 

Mrs. Prince is proud of all of them and still asks them to serve guests bottled water, which is the only beverage she keeps in the house, and to go to the store on errands. They comply without complaining. Mrs. Prince said unlike many black families, hers provided a stable, two-parent, Christian home that encouraged going to church and Bible study every week, which she says is one reason why Tayshaun is a success today.

 

A true piston, Tayshaun Prince is long and movable, reflecting incident energy.

 

Prince takes photo op outside parents home with sister Tisha, mother Diane, and interviewer Tomi Johnson. (Photo by Kurk Johnson)

 

“When someone meets my son, I want them to look past what a great NBA basketball player he is to what high morals he has,” Diane Prince said.  “Tayshaun also has a good relationship with God,” said Mrs. Prince and added that if Tayshaun ever strays as many people do, he will eventually come back to the right path set for him by his parents and the Crenshaw Christian Center where he grew up as an active member. “Tayshaun knows how to carry himself,” said Mrs. Prince.

 

During the 2002/2003 season, Prince’s record of minutes played in a game was just under ½ hour, but in those minutes he shined with a no-nonsense demeanor that typifies his style. Being true to the “piston” definition, Prince is long and movable, reflecting incident energy and adjusting his lanky moves to make a difference on the court.

 

According to Hoopshype (http://www.hoopshype.com/salaries/detroit.htm), Prince’s first year’s salary with the Pistons was third from the bottom on the player’s list at just under $1 million, but it is predicted that Prince will earn $2.6 million during the 2006/07 season.  It is rumored that Prince immediately became a millionaire when he accepted the Piston’s signing bonus in 2002.  It is also rumored that he is leasing a 5-bedroom house in or nearby Detroit.  He drives a white Yukon, likes to sport Michael Jordan knit hats, and wears Nike shirts and shoes. He has a steady girlfriend, but is taking his time in planning marriage.  That matches his “not in a hurry/sooner or latter style” of success on and off the court. The following is an interview done with Prince in his parent’s living room.

 

JOHNSON:  Today we are here with Tayshaun Prince, who is an NBA basketball player with the Detroit…

 

PRINCE: …Pistons.

 

JOHNSON:  Pistons, the Detroit Pistons, that’s right, and he loves the team, I understand.  We are going to go back in history and ask, "Why and when did you choose to play basketball?"

 

PRINCE:  When? I was probably about six or seven years old.  Why? (Sigh) My mom and dad played a lot of basketball. While growing up, I used to go watch my dad play basketball a lot with his company league. Basketball kind of ran through the family. From that point on, I just started playing. Once I realized how good I could be at playing that sport, I took it a lot more seriously.

 

JOHNSON:  Some people think coaches are drill sergeants. What type of influence did your coaches have on making you a success?

 

PRINCE:  A good coach is a great teacher of the game. When you are on the high school level, it is a matter of getting you prepared to go to the next level, and the college coach prepares you to go to the next level. They try to use their experience from when they were playing and how long they have been around the game and build that experience upon the players. 

 

The better level you get to in the game of basketball, the better the coaching staff is, so at the NBA level you have great teachers who have been around the game for so long, and they gear everything around the players.

 

JOHNSON:  Why did you decide to major in Sociology at the University of Kentucky?

 

PRINCE:  While playing basketball, we would go to so many different basketball camps, and during the summertime Tubby (Smith) would have camps working with kids to not only give them a better experience with basketball, but we were their role models. Going into that field of Sociology gave me a better opportunity to work with kids. Knowing what to visualize and things to get ready for is important.  Obviously by working with kids during the summertime, being a role model and being a Sociology major helps me out a little bit.

 

JOHNSON:  Growing up, who was your role model?

 

PRINCE:  Besides my parents, Magic Johnson was always my role model.  Growing up in LA and watching him during the ‘80’s winning championships repeatedly, he was my role model.

 

JOHNSON:  What type of influence did your parents have on you becoming a success?

 

PRINCE:  The most important thing about the situation that I had was being brought up with great parents and playing basketball which kept me going in the right direction. I think if I wasn’t playing basketball I would have been in the streets.  When kids are young, they pretty much like to do what they want, but I was pretty focused on basketball and going to school.  I have been a pretty focused person throughout life, and I think the way my parents brought me up was the reason behind that.

 

JOHNSON:  I think the first time I met you, we were playing billiards, and I noticed how focused you were, and you beat me, and I said to myself that you were probably the same way in everything you did.  Of course you are young, how old are you, about 23 years old?

 

PRINCE:  Yes.

 

JOHNSON:  I read somewhere that you don’t really mature until you are 50 (laugh).  How has your NBA playing differed from you college playing?

 

PRINCE:  Like I said earlier, just going through different coaches and different levels of basketball gets you prepared for the common goal which is to get to the NBA.  Throughout high school, it was just a matter of learning the game of basketball. Once I got to college, it was not only making a star out of myself, but also making everyone around you better. In the NBA, you see guys who are the top players around the world. It’s a fun experience playing against them because you want to better yourself each and every year you are playing the game of basketball.  Being at the peak of my career right now, at the top, making yourself better is the most important thing. That’s my goal, just to get better and better each year.

 

JOHNSON:  What would you like people to know about Tayshaun Prince that they may not have already found out?

 

PRINCE:  There are many fans always recognizing what you’re doing on the court, and you want them to know what you do off the court.  A few people do know, but a lot of people don’t.  How you carry yourself on and off the court is not what makes you a better basketball player, but a better person. Not all the fans across the world really know who the real Tayshaun Prince is. Basically, for the people who do not know who Tayshaun Prince is, the person who doesn’t play basketball, I’m pretty much a calm, collected person. A lot of people do see that on the court, me being a laid back person. That’s pretty much what I’m like off the court as well.

 

“You’re as good as the company you keep” defines how Prince (seated right) spends his spare time with friends of all ages on a Kentucky horse farm. (Photo by Tomi Johnson)

 

JOHNSON:  What does get you excited? What do you like to do in your spare time?

 

PRINCE:  In my free time, I like to hang out with my friends and family. I don’t hang out in the streets.  I like to be indoors. I like to bowl with my friends and family, just doing things that bring us together.  Not being at home and seeing them that much, I like to do things that bring us closer because I’m away from home nine to ten months a year. I’m so anxious to get home to see my family and other people I haven’t seen in a long time.

 

Prince circles the pool table while playing billiards with Sherman Johnson in his time off the court.

(Photo by Tomi Johnson)

 

JOHNSON:  Let’s go to the business aspect of being a NBA basketball player.  What kind of relationship do you have with your agent?  Is it like a Jerry Maguire type of thing? How do you feel about being a businessman?

 

PRINCE:  Going to the NBA, the players and the people who have been around the game a long time try to advise you about agents and try to get you in to the right situation.  The agent that I picked I have known for quite a while, throughout college.  I pretty much knew him when my brother Thomas was playing basketball because he was the agent he was looking at, so before I got to the NBA, I knew the agent I was going to pick.  From that point on, we’ve built a great relationship. The past couple years he has been recognized as the top agent in the NBA, and he’s a great guy.

 

JOHNSON: What’s his name?

 

PRINCE:  Bill Duffy.  He has great people surrounding him.  The relationship between an agent and player has to be an important thing. Being able to know him before I got to the NBA I think helps some. He’s known and well respected throughout the NBA and overseas as well. Throughout the season this year, he came to see me play several times.  He does represent a lot of guys throughout the NBA, but at the same time, he makes sure that he’s coming to see you.  His secretary and other people on his staff make sure everything is going well. It’s very important that you have that relationship with him.

 

 

 

 

Agent Bill Duffy of Bill Duffy and Associates (BDA) Sports Marketing is recognized as a quiet, cool, Christian executive who works from his California home. He also represents the NBA’s 2002 #1 draft pick, Yao Ming of China. It is reported that Duffy manages $500 million worth of player contracts in the NBA. (http://www.bdasports.com/news/bill_duffy_2.html)

 

 

 

 

JOHNSON:  We’ve talked about relationships a lot. With you being an NBA player, I’m sure a lot of people want to be your friend and run with you. I’m sure you have to be really careful about the circles you run in. How do you choose your relationships?

 

PRINCE:  In my situation, it hasn’t been too difficult. Obviously, you have the guys that like to hang out at the clubs, and sometimes that has a tendency to attract peers you really don’t want around you.  For me not to put myself in those types of situations, I have to be around the right people.  I think people kind of notice that, hey, this guy doesn’t like to put himself out in certain situations. I think that being that calm-type person, by people really knowing who I am, they can recognize and realize that my name is not out there in the streets. I guess it’s how you want to keep yourself away from those situations.  Just stay focused on what you’re doing, just play basketball, have the right group of people around me, and that helps me avoid certain things.

 

Farah Brown, a student at the University of Kentucky, is one of Prince’s constant companions. (Photo by Tomi Johnson)

 

JOHNSON:  I’m sure many mothers would like to know what kind of vitamins your mother took while pregnant with you to produce such a calm and focused son.  What advise could you give to a high school student that really hasn’t been that focused?  Of course, they would like to have money, a nice car, and a job…what advice could you give them?

 

PRINCE:  The most important advice I can give is to make sure you’re established around the right people so you can stay on the right track.  You have six high school guys this year jumping to the NBA early and only two of them are suppose to get drafted. That just goes to show that these high school basketball players see these NBA guys with all this money and cars and everything, and they want to get to that so fast and experience that at a young age, and it takes them off track. If you establish yourself around the right people, you’ll be able to stay on track and be focused.

 

JOHNSON:  The US claims ownership of many titles, and we are sometimes cocky when it comes to basketball.  Now with Yao Ming, Mutumbo, and other guys from outside the US playing exceptional ball and other foreigners playing in the NBA, where does it leave our American stars in terms of competition?

 

PRINCE:  David Stern, who is the commissioner of the NBA, wants to make the NBA more complete, establish it as a worldwide organization, and bring in overseas players.  I think four or five years down the road, they may make it to where US players have to travel over there to play throughout the season. The main reason why you are seeing more overseas players come to the NBA is because you see a lot of general managers and team managers are having so many problems with US players that they have started taking their chances with these guys overseas.  You have some guys that are great players and you see them on SPORTS CENTER, and they’re going to jail, getting pulled over for DUIs, and things like that.

 

The NBA is looking forward to getting guys from overseas because they’re not having problems with these guys.  Guys over in the US, just not the black guys, are young and getting to the NBA early and they’re having so many problems, the NBA is starting to look forward to bringing more guys over here.  That’s why different things are happening in the NBA nowadays.

 

JOHNSON:  That’s going to mean fewer chances for American players?

 

PRINCE:  Exactly.  They’ve had plenty of opportunities, and that’s why you’re seeing some of them after one or two years  out of the league because of drugs, alcohol, and things like that. These general managers and people on top of the NBA don’t want to take that chance or risk paying all these players that much money.  Now it’s in contracts when you sign a six-year deal for $40 million or $50 million, after two years some players are having drug problems, and you still have to pay these people the money.  At the same time, not only are they having problems off the court like drugs and alcohol, but also on the court they’re not taking the game seriously anymore. 

 

You see guys who are 1st and 2nd year players and were playing so well, they get that big contract, and you don’t see them anymore because they’re so happy with the money and what they have established that they put everything on cruise control. They say, hey, I’m 25 or 26 years old and I got $60 million, I’ve pretty much done what I had to do in my career, so they’re not taking it seriously.  That’s why you’re seeing a change in the NBA now.

 

JOHNSON:  I guess that’s why BET owner Bob Johnson sold out for billions and bought an NBA team in North Carolina, because it’s profitable to be in sports, but of course, basketball isn’t something you can play until you’re 60 years old. Do you think that someone would just throw their chances away after making so many millions?

 

PRINCE:  It’s definitely not all the players, it’s just that some are getting in trouble and doing things the NBA doesn’t want them to do. It’s written into the contract of what they can and can’t do.  They’re not taking advantage of it. The guys from overseas, all they do is play basketball basically 24 hours a day. They’re not worried about coming over here and hanging out.  They want to come over here and play basketball, and that’s it.

 

JOHNSON:  Of course you want to have some fun, too, but like my mama used to tell me, “Don’t have too much fun!”  What are you looking forward to this coming season?

 

PRINCE:  We just hired a new coach, Larry Brown, so I have to get adjusted to a new coach. He’s been known as one of the greatest teachers in basketball history. I will be able to learn more about the game from him.  The most important thing that I’m trying to do, not just next year, but I want to continue to get better and better EVERY year.  What will accomplish that will be hard work, on and off the basketball court, not just in the games, but in practice, too. Success will also come with staying healthy, having good eating habits, and a whole lot of different things.  Just getting better each and every year, that’s what I’m looking forward to.

 

JOHNSON:  Thank you very much.  I appreciate the interview, and I’m sure you’re going to be a continuing success because you have your mom and family behind you, and you seem to have a very good head on your shoulders. Thank you so much.

 

PRINCE:  You are welcomed.

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