Epiphanny Prince leaving Sky in June
Epiphanny Prince is headed to Russia.
The Brooklyn native will miss a few weeks of the WNBA season to join the Russian national women's basketball team for the EuroBasket tournament from June 15-30. Prince will leave the Chicago Sky on June 4 to train with the Russian team for a week before the tournament begins. She'll be back with the Sky at the end of the month and most likely miss six games.
"I want to play the whole WNBA season, but made a commitment to play for the Russian national team," Prince told The Associated Press in a phone interview.
The top five finishers in the EuroBasket, which will be played in France, will qualify for next year's world championship in Turkey. The U.S. already qualified by winning the 2012 London Olympics.
"It's going to be tough on us, but we knew it was part of her deal going in and we'll deal with that," Chicago Sky general manager and coach Pokey Chatman said.
Prince has a chance to be the second American-born player to play for Russia's national team in the Olympics. Becky Hammon played in the last two Olympics for Russia and also the 2010 world championship. Prince became a naturalized citizen in 2010, but this will be her first time playing with the national team.
"I didn't really think about playing in the Olympics as a kid growing up," Prince said. "I did watch NBA and WNBA games but never really dreamed about the Olympics."
Since Prince hasn't played for the United States in any major FIBA-sanctioned international events, she is allowed to compete for Russia.
"It was the main thrust for Prince getting a Russian passport," Chatman said. "The Russians lack a true point guard. Even though it's not her natural position she can be serviceable at point. She's a prolific scorer and is someone who can run the point for them."
Russia is coming off a disappointing Olympics where they finished fourth losing to Australia in the bronze medal game. The Russians had won bronze medals at the previous two Olympics, but haven't won a gold medal since 1992 when the country was known as the Unified Team. The Russians just hired Prince's winter club coach, Alfredas Vainauskas, to lead the national team for the next four years.
"I know the coach and his system so that helps," Prince said. "I'm not really sure which players are going to be on the team."
Prince said she's still learning the language despite playing the past few winters in Russia. She's confident that won't be an issue since most of her new teammates speak English.
Prince burst onto the national spotlight in high school when she scored a record 113 points in a game. She then went on to star at Rutgers for Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer before leaving college after her junior year to play professionally overseas -- a rare move in women's basketball. The 25-year-old had a stellar season last year for the Sky averaging 22 points before fracturing her right foot in June. She came back but couldn't get Chicago into the WNBA playoffs for the first time ever.
Prince hopes to change those fortunes this year.
"That's what I'm hoping for," she said. "We have a really good group."
The Sky have faith in their young star, signing her to a multi-year contract extension Wednesday.
She's a franchise type player you want to build around," Chatman said.
Prince was excited that she'll be in Chicago for a while.
"I would like to finish my career here," she said. "I'm excited that I was able to get it done."
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press