Talk to Hawks coaches and management about rookie Taurean Prince and they immediately comment about his NBA-ready body.
What does that really mean?
“Somebody who can guard multiple positions and not get punked on any level of the floor, offense or defense,” surmised the 6-foot-7, 225-pound first-round draft pick.
The Hawks selected Prince, via a trade with the Jazz, with the 12th overall pick of this year’s NBA Draft. The 22-year old spent four seasons at Baylor and blossomed into a versatile wing who fits the Hawks on both ends of the court.
Prince has two days of an NBA training camp under his belt. He has continued to show the promise the Hawks saw on draft night, during the Las Vegas Summer League and recent voluntary workouts.
“He continues to be impressive for a young player,” coach Mike Budenholzer said of Prince after Wednesday morning’s practice at the University of Georgia. “Just his maturity from a physical standpoint, his size and strength, really helps. He’s learning well. The competitiveness of this camp plays to him well.”
Budenholzer noted last week that the addition of Prince, along with center Dwight Howard and a starting role for point guard Dennis Schroder, gives the Hawks’ defense a more physical and competitive identity.
Prince joined the Hawks late in summer league while the final details of the trade, such as player physicals, were completed. He said in the months since he got on the court with his new teammates, the physical adjustment has been minor. The mental side of the game and familiarity with the system, especially the floor spacing, of the professional ranks has been the biggest difference.
“To me, the speed is kind of the same,” Prince said. “The more noticeable change is the spacing. In college, you can stay in the paint all night long if you want to. Now, you have prolific players and there is no (weakness in the game) of who you are playing with. Guys have to stay with their guys and can’t help as much which opens things up for other people.”
Budenholzer agreed that floor spacing is one of the greatest adjustments for young players, especially a versatile player such at Prince. He is working in training camp to know when to slash to the basket and when to give teammates room to operate.
A big part of the training camp experience has been the ability to learn from a mistake and quickly move on. Prince said Wednesday that Hawks veterans have worked with him, on and off the court, to get acclimated to the professional game and learn the nuances of the system.
“To be honest, I think I have progressed a lot more mentally than anything,” Prince said. “Just being able to shake off the mistakes because they are going to happen. That’s the nature of the game, being able to shake off the mistakes, move on to the next thing and not let one mistake lead to two.
“Also, I just want to fall in love with the process. Fall in love with getting better. Fall in love with being coachable. Fall in love with receiving constructive criticism. Just being a sponge, taking everything in, good or bad, and turning it into a positive.”
The Hawks have a great deal of depth at the wing position with Kyle Korver, Kent Bazemore, Thabo Sefolosha and Tim Hardaway Jr. To that mix they have added Malcolm Delaney, first-round pick DeAndre Bembry and Prince. It has made for a competitive game and the battle figures to continue into exhibition and regular-season games to establish a rotation. This much is clear, Prince is making his case.