Looking Back: Epiphanny Prince in 2012

To say the 2012 season was a breakout year for Chicago guard Epiphanny Prince might be a misnomer. For one, you can’t have a breakout season when you already did it in 2011. Secondly, “breakouts” are typically reserved for players who were largely unknown before the season began, but then become candidates for “Most Improved Player,” or a similar distinction. Prince was named to her first All-Star team in 2011 (and there will likely be many more invitations for the 5-foot-9 combo guard out of Rutgers) as she scored 20 or more points in six games. But in 2012, she burst through the upper stratosphere of the WNBA’s elite.

This year, Epiphanny Prince turned in a performance as unforgettable as her unique name. She topped 20 points nine times, and eclipsed the 30-point mark four times despite sitting out eight games due to a broken foot. Though she was forced to miss two months of action, a fortuitous month-long hiatus thanks to the London Olympics allowed Prince to recuperate without missing too many games. Before that fateful day on June 16 at Indiana, the Sky had been riding high on a franchise-best six-game win streak and a 7-1 start to the season. Prince was the leading scorer in the league with a 24.3 average and had twice been named Player of the Week in June. The league was coming off what might be aptly called “Prince-sanity” when Prince became the first player to score 30-plus points in three straight games since Houston’s Cynthia Cooper did it in 1997, the inaugural season of the WNBA.

On June 1 against Washington, Prince scored 13 of her 31 points in the final 1:44 to help the Sky overcome an eight-point deficit and win, 65-63. The next day at Atlanta, Prince banked in a 3- pointer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime, where she scored eight of her 33 points as Chicago climbed out of a 22-point hole to win, 94-92. And despite a six-day layoff before the next game against Tulsa, Prince remained on fire and dropped 32 points in a virtual repeat of the previous game. She banked in a 3-pointer at the end of regulation, then scored eight more points in the extra period as the Sky prevailed, 98-91. Even her superstar teammate, Sylvia Fowles, was impressed. “That’s Piph,” said Fowles. “That’s what she does. She gets in the open court one-on-one and you just let her go free.”

Prince improved her numbers across the board in 2012, but particularly in the shooting department where she established herself as a deadly threat from anywhere on the floor. “She’s one of maybe seven players that has long-range, mid-range, and an ability to finish around the basket for someone that’s only 5-8,” said Sky coach Pokey Chatman. Another player who fits that description, New York guard Cappie Pondexter, also sang high praises for Prince. “She’s the type of guard that can break down any defense with her ability to score and penetrate and get other shots,” she said. “She’s hard to stop.” Prince’s field goal percentage skyrocketed to 44 percent in 2012 – up from 37 percent in 2011. Her 3-point percentage also rose to 41 percent, compared to 37 percent the previous year, and her free throw percentage reached a sparkling 90 percent, up from 80 percent in 2011.

By the end of the season, Prince found herself among the top 10 in the WNBA in numerous categories: No. 4 in points per game (18.1), No. 3 in free throw percentage (90 percent), No. 7 in steals per game (1.8), No. 7 in 3-pointers made (59) and No. 10 in 3-pointers attempted (145). Her averages of 3.1 assists and 3.5 rebounds placed her second and fourth on the Sky, respectively. And in just her third season with the franchise, she passed Candice Dupree as the all-time record-holder for most steals. Prince has solidified herself as one of the more complete players in the nation with her defensive tenacity and talent for putting up points in a hurry. But as a shooting guard who’s often asked to play the point, she enjoys getting her teammates involved. On Sept. 2 against Los Angeles, Prince dished out a career-high nine assists to go with 17 points. Chatman believes Prince can dominate games in other ways besides scoring. “I tell her, ‘You’re a special player,’” Chatman said. “Sometimes she struggles with not wanting to take over. Taking over doesn’t always mean scoring 31 points. She has an ability to get by defenders and see things and help us play at a certain pace. Only Epiphanny can stop Epiphanny.”