Scoring from Tennessee senior key for Vols to win
J.P. Prince takes charges, steals balls, gets his fellow Volunteers involved in the offense and plays defense.
In short, the senior guard does everything for Tennessee.
To gauge Tennessee's chances of winning a particular game just check the stat monitor and see how many points Prince has. The Vols head into their Midwest Regional semifinal Friday night against Ohio State in St. Louis having won the last nine games when Prince scores in double figures - they're 0-3 when he doesn't.
Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said Prince's value to the Vols is obvious and called him a real key to their season. But he also thinks the senior has become more assertive.
``He's just a good all-around player. He creates possessions for you defensively with taking charges and getting deflections and getting steals. J.P. makes a lot happen, and he's one of the guys, J.P. can look at me and say, 'Coach, I got this. I got this.' And most of the time, he does,'' Pearl said.
This was expected when Prince came out of White Station High School in Memphis having led that team to three straight state titles. He had been the 2005 Class AAA Mr. Basketball and was the Gatorade Tennessee Player of the Year.
Basketball runs in his family. His father, John, played at Southern Mississippi and coached in the college ranks, including a job as Jackson State's head coach. His cousin is Tayshaun Prince of the NBA's Detroit Pistons.
He started college at Arizona and transferred back to Tennessee three games into the 2006-07 season after a difficult year that included him being placed in a medically induced coma because of problems after having his wisdom teeth removed. He had reconstructive surgery on his right shoulder last April.
Prince started the season as a starter but struggled enough that Pearl put him on the bench for six straight games. Prince started feeling better and got back into the starting lineup Dec. 31 at Memphis and hasn't been out since.
He scored at least 10 points 18 times for Tennessee this season and has had at least six rebounds in 12 games. During the NCAA tournament, he has led them in points with 16.5 points per game and minutes with 28 per game. He's averaging 66.7 percent shooting from the floor during the tournament as well.
``His shooting percentage is good because he gets a lot of stuff around the basket,'' Pearl said. ``He doesn't take many 3s, but he's made just enough in big situations you don't go, 'Oh!' every time he shoots it. ... He makes good decisions.''
The Vols' next challenge will be finding a way to slow down Evan Turner, Ohio State's top scorer averaging 20 points per game. Pearl will use a defense by committee approach, but Prince likely will be the Vol who gets the most time with Turner.
Guard Bobby Maze said all the Vols. can defend but that Prince's size, wingspan and agility with his feet allows him to shut down anybody in the country. Asked if that includes Turner, Maze didn't back down.
``Anybody in the country,'' Maze said.
Pearl said Prince gives the Vols a chance to compete at that position. Prince is ready to do whatever his coaches ask of him.
``If they didn't think I could do it, they wouldn't put me in that position,'' Prince said.