When Taurean Prince walks into the Ferrell Center for Senior Day, a rush of emotions will fly through his head.
He will look at his father and think of the struggles they went through, including a homeless stint during junior high school n San Angelo when they stayed at the Salvation Army.
He will look at his mother and think of how she supported him when he moved to San Antonio. His emergence as a talented basketball player at Warren High School led to a scholarship at Baylor, where he has become an all-Big 12 player.
Prince will play his final home game for the No. 19 Bears against No. 10 West Virginia at 1 p.m. Saturday. He will remember how all the tough times he has experienced have made him the player and man he is today.
“Being in the position I was in during middle school, I think about it all the time,” Prince said. “Especially if we’re in a tough position in a game, I don’t panic. Just be calm through everything because you’ve been through way worse times than anything that can possibly happen now.”
After his parents divorced, Prince moved with his father, Anthony Prince, to San Angelo. Anthony said they lived in his mother’s house until she died.
Unable to keep up payments for the house, Anthony said they were homeless for about a month until he could save for a house.
“We lived at the Salvation Army,” Taurean said. “I was there with my father trying to make things work. We were trying to find different situations to better the one we were in. It made me and my father have a strong connection.”
Without a car, Anthony Prince walked Taurean two miles to a bus stop every morning so he could go to school. Through it all, he managed to stay positive and lift his father’s spirits.
“One day we were walking from the Salvation Army to the bus stop and I was depressed and embarrassed,” Anthony said. “I asked him how he can be so upbeat with what we’re going through.
“He said, ‘If I try my hardest, it’s the best I can do.’ He was always striving to be better. I said, ‘If you keep working, someday things are going to work out.’ ”
Taurean ended up moving to a friend’s house in San Angelo as he finished Lincoln Middle School. That led to his decision to move in with his mother in San Antonio, where he began attending Warren High School as a freshman.
Prince didn’t play basketball as a freshman because of his grades. After everything he had gone through in junior high, it was a hard lesson to learn because he couldn’t play the game he loved.
“I wasn’t too serious about school, so I didn’t play my freshman year,” Prince said. “Usually if you fail a class you’re not showing what it takes to be responsible. Luckily, Coach (Jim) Weaver kept me on the team.
“They put you in P.E. I guess by the grace of God he made the right decision and decided to keep me.”
Prince began his sophomore year on the junior varsity before he was moved up to the varsity. By his junior year, he was a budding star, as he averaged 16.4 points and 11.6 rebounds.
By his senior year, he was averaging 21.4 points, 11.2 rebounds and 3.5 blocks and led Warren to the Class 5A state semifinals. Warren lost to Fort Bend Travis, which featured twins Aaron and Andrew Harrison, who played at Kentucky before moving on to the NBA.
Prince had grown from a 5-foot-9 freshman guard to a 6-7 senior center with a good skill set.
“Every year, he got better and better like he has at Baylor,” Weaver said. “At the beginning of the (senior) year, he wasn’t even listed in the top 100 recruits in Texas. By the time we moved to the state tournament, he moved to four or five.
“He was obviously one of the best players on the floor that year, up there with Marcus Smart and the Harrison twins.”
Prince signed with Long Island-Brooklyn, which had gone to the NCAA tournament in 2011 and 2012. But after coach Jim Ferry took the head coaching job at Duquesne, Prince got a release from his scholarship in April 2012.
Baylor coach Scott Drew was definitely interested.
“He was on the radar at that point,” Drew said. “He had signed early (with Long Island-Brooklyn), and when he got out, everybody started to watch film to see how much he improved his senior year and the possibilities he had.”
There was little fanfare when Prince signed with Baylor, and he made only a small impact as a freshman in 2012-13 as he averaged 3.7 points and 2.2 rebounds.
Prince played more as a sophomore, putting up 6.2 points and 2.8 rebounds. But he excelled as a junior last season as he produced a team-high 13.9 points and 5.6 rebounds per game to make second-team all-Big 12.
Few people could have predicted this high school center would transform into a versatile 6-8 forward who could take defenders to the basket or step outside and nail a 3-pointer. Prince emerged as one of Baylor’s best 3-point shooters last season, as he drilled 60 of 152 attempts.
“I had dreams ever since I stepped on campus as far as what I wanted to do and what I wanted to be,” Prince said. “I put in the work and allowed the veteran players that came before me to mold me into the player I am today.”
Making a major impact all season for Baylor’s NCAA tournament team, Prince was named national sixth man of the year.
Instead of pouting about coming off the bench, Prince embraced the sixth- man role.
“Everybody likes starting, but at the same time coaches always value more who’s playing minutes and when they’re playing them,” Drew said. “Taurean wasn’t a starter, but he played starter minutes. We looked at it as having six starters last year.”
Prince spent last summer playing for the United States in the Pan American Games, which took the bronze medal. He also has become a leader and confidant that his teammates often seek for support.
“He was a really good mentor for me when I first got here,” Baylor point guard Lester Medford said. “We got close my first day at Baylor. He’s really like a brother to me. I look up to him and he looks up to me, and we’ve learned from each other throughout this whole year.”
Prince is having another tremendous season on the court as he’s scoring a team-high 15.3 points, while pulling down 5.8 rebounds per game.
He has drained 44 of 123 3-pointers, ranking second on the team to Al Freeman’s 46.
One of the most athletic players in the Big 12, Prince is often Baylor’s go-to guy in critical situations.
“TP has been our emotional leader and our scorer,” Medford said. “When we need a basket, he can get it for us. TP never goes cold. He can miss his first three shots and then come down and hit a big one for us.
“He’s been an awesome scorer for us.”
After losing to Georgia State in the first round of the NCAA tournament last season on a last-second shot, Prince is looking forward to a deep run this March. He hasn’t forgotten how the Bears blew a 12-point lead in the final minutes against the 14th-seeded Panthers.
“Right now, I’m focused on finishing the season strong on Senior Day and after that the Big 12 tournament,” Prince said. “We don’t want to let the same thing repeat as last year in the NCAA tournament.”
Now living in Houston, Anthony Prince attends most of his son’s games and is proud of the career he’s fashioned at Baylor. But most of all, he’s happy that Taurean is on track to graduate from Baylor in May.
“I’ve made it to every one of them except about three when they were out of town,” Anthony said. “It’s a huge deal. I don’t know my father that well. My mother had to work, so she couldn’t go to many games. I wanted to let him know how much I support him as a student and an athlete.”
Prince isn’t sure how all of his emotions will play out when he’s honored with his fellow Baylor seniors before Saturday’s game. But he’s glad both his mother and father will be there for his final home game for the Bears.
Taurean honors his mother, Tamiyko, by wearing her maiden name, Waller, on the back of his jersey as Waller-Prince.
“I really don’t do too much crying because I’ve been so infatuated with the things that come next in life,” Prince said. “But who knows? I might. I know my mom will, so that might trigger it.”