Friday, May 18, 2007

So Did Tommie ...

Henry Abbott had a splendid piece up on True Hoop today called "Tayshaun Prince Wins Games". It's a must-read, so check it out.

It got me thinking about how Prince wasn't heralded as the NBA type coming out of college, which is why he went rather late (23rd) in the first round. Many pro basketball fans didn't see this guy coming. At all.

But there are two groups of college fans who aren't surprised in the least. The first, obviously, are Kentucky fans. Prince was SEC Player of the Year there and led the Wildcats to a 97-39 record during his career. They saw this guy on a regular basis and are probably nodding their heads in appreciation each time the Pistons come on TV.

The second group, however, is a much smaller contingency, but one I belong to: Pepperdine fans. You see, it is a little known fact that Tayshaun's brother Tommie was a Mighty Wave for a time, and that he was sick.

Now, Tommie didn't have the absurd wingspan of his little brother, nor the speed and athleticism, but the guy was a supreme winner. In 2000 Pepperdine went 25-9 and reached the NCAA Tournament as an at large and gave Bobby Knight a 77-57 smackdown as a going away present in his last game at Indiana (think VCU this spring). That team had a solid lowpost scorer (Kelvin Gibbs, who carved out a nice career in Europe), a decent center (Nick Sheppard, who got some run with several NBA teams), a first-team All-WCC point guard (Tezale Archie, who looked quite a bit like Larenz Tate and who gained some brief exposure on that ESPN show that followed D-Leaguers around), and eventual first round draft pick Brandon Armstrong pouring in points on the wing. But it was Prince that made that team go.

For being 6'6" and built like a power forward (at least by WCC standards), Prince was remarkably agile. He was probably the best passer in the conference that year, and was most certainly the best defensive player in the league - probably on the entire west coast. The Waves employed him as the point of a full court press and his reach, instincts, and vision led to countless steals. He was a Shawn Marion-like player for Pepperdine, taking turns to guard everyone from point guards like A.J. Guyton (held the Hoosiers star to 3 points) to slashing wings like Desmond Mason to interior players like Drew Gooden. For his efforts he was named the WCC Defensive Player of the Year. Which is nice, but it wasn't WCC Winner of the Year, which is the award he really deserved.

Many people who saw Tommie play remember his enormous hands (his favorite post move was the Jordan "palm the ball while surveying the court" number) and even more enormous afro (a style that drew national attention during Pepperdine's tourney run). But mostly we remember what a nuanced player he was. The way he was able to lead despite being uber passive and serenely calm in demeanor. The way he could completely derail a team's offensive game plan. And the way he just won basketball games.

Just like his little brother Tayshaun.


jk-1 said...

I follow UK basketball, and my brothers and dad and I never thought he'd have this impact in the league. He was actually skinnier in college. That being said, I follow the Pistons mainly because of Prince and his freakish athleticism. Then, when he helped knock off the hated Lakers in the Finals, he made the Kentuckians proud.

My theory is that he's so good on defense because he can sneak around -- when he turns sideways, you can't see him. Then he sneaks upon you and bam!

Anonymous said...

T is another case of the L over looking substance and looking for style. That dude's a balla. It's no wonder teams like detroit, spur and utah move on and the 1 one squads(sun, warriors) get send home. You got to be more than one dimensional to win in this league.