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As draft approaches, Epiphanny Prince's long road to WNBA nears its end

March 31, 2010 |  3:12 pm

Prince_240 The WNBA draft will be held in Secaucus, N.J., a week from Thursday. Before its first round is over, one team -- likely holding a top-10 pick -- will take Epiphanny Prince, who played her college ball not far away at Rutgers.

But when her name is called, it will conclude what has been a long road to the WNBA for Prince, who last June decided to skip her senior year to play professionally in Europe, becoming one of the first women's basketball players to do so.

On Wednesday in a pre-draft conference call with reporters, Prince said that although that decision was difficult, she feels it was the right thing to do. 

"It elevated my game to a whole new level," she said. 

After spending a year playing 81 games with Botas-Spor in Turkey, Prince credited the transition with improving her game in several areas, such as learning "when to score and when to get everybody involved" as a point guard, along with becoming a more vocal leader. 

That said, she's looking forward to the draft. "It means a lot to me to be to be able to come home and to be able to play in front of friends and family," she said.  

Prince played the guard position at Rutgers for three years, and averaged 19.5 points her junior season while earning third-team All-America honors. This past year with Botas-Spor, she averaged 19 ppg.

Her early move overseas is not unknown in men's basketball, where players are eligible for the NBA draft one year after graduating from high school. Guard Brandon Jennings went straight from high school to playing in Italy and is now a rookie star with the Milwaukee Bucks

But for the WNBA draft, players much be at least 22, have graduated from college, completed their college eligibility or be four years removed from high school graduation. Schuye LaRue left Virginia after her sophomore year in 2001 to play in Europe, eventually being drafted by the Los Angeles Sparks in the second round of the 2003 draft, but she never played in the WNBA 

Current Sparks Coach Jennifer Gillom said the unusual move overseas helped Prince's draft stock by "getting that professional experience." 

Gillom also said her team is looking to add a perimeter player who can help draw pressure away from forward Candace Parker, but it's unlikely that Prince will be available when the Sparks' No. 9 pick rolls around. One mock draft has her going No. 4 overall to the Chicago Sky

One underestimated aspect of Prince's game is her defense, but her offensive skills are worth noting. She even scored 113 points in a high school game, setting a national single-game record. 

-- Baxter Holmes

Photo: Epiphanny Prince. Credit: Tony Dejak / Associated Press.