December 20, 2006

Could second time be charm for Prince and Vandy?

Two years ago, Vanderbilt finished second to Arizona in one of the year's highest profile recruiting races. Now, it appears the Commodores will have another shot at landing what would be the higest ranked recruit of Kevin Stallings' eight year tenure at the Nashville school.

Former Memphis White Station basketball player J.P. Prince finally made public what many in Tucson had been expecting for months. According to several media sources in Arizona, last night the 6-6 guard has left the University of Arizona campus, and has announced his decision to transfer to another school for the 2007 spring semester.

"The writing has been on the wall a little bit," said UA associate head coach Jim Rosborough to the Arizona Daily Star this afternoon.

Two years ago, Prince selected Arizona after narrowing his college options to the Wildcats and the Commodores. Prince also considered Florida, Memphis and North Carolina State, among many others.

As a senior, rated Prince as one of just five 5-star point guard prospects, Rivals' highest national ranking. Prince was rated as the fourth-best point guard in his class, and #21 overall. He averaged 25 points, six rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 3.3 steals per game as a senior.

The Parade All-American has had a rocky road in the Tucson desert. Hailed at the time of his signing by the Wildcat media propoganda machine as the next in line at "Point Guard U," Prince had his sites set on taking over for entrenched starting point guard Mustafa Shakur after Prince's freshman season. But Shakur's lackluster junior campaign caused him to return to Tucson for his senior season.

Since then, Daniel Dillon has been the top wing defender off the bench for Arizona head coach Lute Olson, while freshman Nic Wise took over the job as the top reserve point guard. Prince, as a result, ended up on the far end of the 12-man bench.

This season, Prince played in just three of Arizona's 10 games, and averaged 5.7 minutes. He was 1-4 from the field, 0-2 from three, and 1-2 from the free throw line.

Prince took and missed what would have been the game-winning shot in the season-opening game against Virginia. He played in two more games, and then did not show for Arizona's Nov. 22 game with Samford. Prince did not dress for the next four games, and then dressed -- but did not play -- in UA's blowout win over Houston this past weekend.

Last season, Prince played in 28 games, and averaged 2.2 points per game, 1.9 rebounds, and 1.8 assists.

During his stay in Tucson, Prince has been dogged by fans and media for an alleged poor work ethic in practice. But on the eve of his depaprture from UA, Prince said he was grateful for his experiences in Tucson."I want to thank the fans in Tucson and the university for making me a better person and a better student," he continued. "I've made friends here that will be with me forever, and that includes the coaches and my teammates.

"I've enjoyed my time in Tucson, but it's just in my best interests for me to get back home."

A call by to the Prince home was not returned.

Prince has made few public comments during the continued questioning of his future, which stretched back to last spring. At that time, Prince had withdrawn from school and was admitted to the hospital for undisclosed medical care. He had reportedly lost 35 pounds from his slender 180-pound frame since then. His father, John, traveled to Tucson last week to spend time with his son and check on his physical condition.

"My focus is on getting healthy and maintaining my academics," he said. "The health problems I dealt with last spring have kept me from performing at the level needed here at Arizona. Right now I just want to get back home and get better physically.

Prince, who is a cousin of former University of Kentucky student athlete and current Detroit Piston Tayshaun Prince, will return to his home in Memphis.

Prince made several unofficial visits to Vanderbilt's campus with his parents, John and Mary, during his recruitment. He made his official visit to Nashville on September 3, 2005.

NCAA rules prohibit any college coach from publicly discussing a potential recruit until they have signed a National Letter of Intent. As a transfer, Prince would need to receive a formal release from his scholarship at Arizona before he could re-open his recruitment. It is not clear whether that has happened.

If Prince transfers as planned, he would have to sit out one year as a redshirt. According to NCAA rules, he would have 2.5 years of eligibility remaining. Should he transfer to Vanderbilt, Prince would be eligible to play at the start of the 2008 SEC schedule.

Coach Stallings has six open scholarships to fill in the 2006-07 recruiting class. He filled three of those openings during the fall signing period, signing 6-1 point guard Keegan Bell, 6-6 wing forward Andre Walker and 6-10 center A.J. Ogilvy.

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