It’s almost ironic watching the dawn of a new era of Atlanta Hawks basketball begin as the Hawks open training camp at the University of Georgia. The Hawks are in the midst of restructuring the roster from a veteran group that featured All Stars Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard to a youth movement with Dennis Schroeder and First Round Pick, John Collins.
One of the team’s key cogs of the future and present, Taurean Prince, spent four years playing college basketball at Baylor University before the Hawks went against modern, conventional draft wisdom and made a senior the12th overall in the 2016 NBA Draft.
Prince isn’t a normal second year player. Prince is already 23 years-old. Typically, that is considered young, but in the age of the one and done prospects, 18 and 19-year-olds are the usual picks by NBA General Managers look to add players who can contribute to their future.
The Hawks’ willingness to take Prince as a fourth-year senior has paid off, giving them a head start on the maturation process for Prince. Entering the league as a mature 23-year-old, Prince was quickly able to adjust to Coach Mike Budenholzer’s offense and expectations for players on the roster. Despite the Hawks completely rebuilding their roster, Prince gives the Hawks a young, mature piece to add to the young core that is being assembled.
Prince thinks four years of college was an advantage for him in his development. Many young NBA prospects enter the league and fail to contribute on the same level and fail to adjust, leading to a short stint in the Pros. Prince thinks his four years of experience and maturation process as a basketball player at Baylor was a benefit in comparison to the other prospects of last year’s class.
“I think they’re kind of unaware of what it really takes to be in the league and not only be there, but produce at the same time,” Prince said. “I think a lot of guys are number two or number three draft picks and they’re high and they come in here with the mindset of ‘I’m that guy and I’m going to be alright.’ Then they end up having a subpar 1st season. Then they say they’ll pick it up the next season. To come in with a good mindset it will serve you well.”
With the first practice of training camp in the books, Prince enters the 2017-18 campaign with experience and ready to contribute to Atlanta’s roster in comparison to his rookie season, when he was learning the process of the NBA. Prince attributes his excitement to being more comfortable with Budenholzer’s expectations as well as the unknown that surrounds the 2017-2018 Hawks.
“I’m even more excited,” Prince said. “It’s kind of a mystery to everybody else, but we have our blueprint laid down and we know what we want to do. I’m excited to see how well we execute it.”
Prince, struggled in the early portion of the 2016-17 season to earn Budenholzer’s trust to contribute at a consistent level nightly. However, as the playoff race approached, Prince was moved into the starting lineup including the Hawks’ six game playoff series against the Washington Wizards. For Prince, between the experience of playing in a NBA Playoffs Series and gaining confidence in his game gives Hawks fans more of a reason to watch his development as a sophomore.
“I think I’ve become very comfortable throughout the playoffs and even more comfortable coming in knowing a lot of the things Bud wants and now I can take my leadership to the young guys,” Prince said. “There’s guys that don’t even see the playoffs their 1st five or 10 years in the league. So, to be blessed enough to see the playoffs my first year and not only to see them, but be able to start all six games is a blessing and I just plan to take that over into this year.”
Prince will be a player to watch in 2017, not only because he is in the 2nd year of his professional career now and improvement is natural from year one to year two, but year two in Budenholzer’s system also seems to be the breakout point for players as evidences by Tim Hardaway Jr.’s jump last season and Kent Bazemore’s emergence the year prior.
Jeremy Johnson: @Clark_Kent_75