The Mercury's New Point Guard

By Ben York, PhoenixMercury.com

Allow me to introduce the Phoenix Mercury’s new point guard, Sammy Prahalis.

Version 2.0, if you will.

But before I do, for a brief moment, imagine being in the shoes of the 2012 WNBA All-Rookie Team member.

It’s April of 2012 and you’ve just been drafted by the Phoenix Mercury as the sixth overall pick. The buzz is palpable. You’re immediately dubbed as the team’s point guard of the future – obviously a huge responsibility to bear.

Then, as the season rolls on and you begin to develop chemistry with the team’s core, multiple injuries force you not only to modify your own game (Prahalis was more of a facilitator through the season’s first nine games averaging 5.9 assists, then a scorer in her final 19 games averaging 12.6 points), but also create cohesion with new players on the fly.

Indeed, navigating those waters is easier said than done – and Prahalis handled the whirlwind 2012 season superbly.

As a rookie, she started 28 games for the Mercury, playing 31.8 minutes per game, the third-most by a Phoenix rookie in franchise history. She led all first-year players in assists (4.5 per game) and was ranked second in scoring (11.6) and steals (1.57).

In June of 2012, Prahalis was named the league’s Rookie of the Month after averaging 13.8 points, 5.1 assists and 1.8 steals in nine games. Prahalis recorded at least six assists in 10 games last season, including four consecutive games from May 31-June 8, the longest such streak by a rookie in franchise history.

After the season ended, Prahalis played overseas in Israel for a few weeks before returning home to New York for family reasons.

Turns out, it was exactly what she needed.

While home with her family, Prahalis rededicated herself to the game of basketball both physically and mentally. She modified her diet and is eating healthier than ever, dramatically strengthened her core and worked out 2-3 times per day while enhancing her court vision and leadership skills.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this good,” Prahalis said, who arrived in Phoenix over two weeks ago to train. “I haven’t had that much time to just workout and concentrate on things like my diet and be with my family in so long. Things happened so fast after college and going pro. I think it was something that got me back on track and feeling good all-around coming into this season.”

In a very tangible way, Prahalis has reconnected with her roots and fallen in love with the game again. So much so that you might not even recognize her -- she’s ditched her trademark jet-black hair for her natural blonde.

“I’ve thought about going back to blonde for a while,” Prahalis reflected. “I just wanted to switch it up. I love the jet-black hair but I think the blonde makes me look a little softer. More like myself.”

If you spend any amount of time around Prahalis, it’s easy to pick up on her renewed confidence. Perhaps more significant, there’s an unmistakable sense of peace within her that manifests itself outwardly. Prahalis also says there is a collective excitement that permeates throughout the entire Phoenix Mercury team.

“I think losing makes you appreciate winning more,” said Prahalis. “Everyone is focused to start and ready to go. The draft pick was icing on the cake. We got a player in Brittney [Griner] that will definitely be a great piece to this team.”

Prahalis knows how high the expectations are, and is more than ready to face the challenge head on.

“I know what to expect now,” Prahalis said with assurance. “I think going through last year with all of the injuries and things changing so frequently made me stronger and hungrier. The energy and intensity levels will be up this year and I think it will bring out the best in me as a player. They expect me to play at a high level on a daily basis and I’m ready.

“All I want to do is win.”