Last week, after I visited LIU Brooklyn practice and I was thinking back through what I saw and reading back my notes that I had taken, my mind began to wonder. I started playing the “What if…” game in my head and the person I was playing that game with, Taurean Waller-Prince.
You guys remember Taurean Waller-Prince? You don’t. Well that is because he never played for LIU Brooklyn.
Taurean Waller-Prince, for those who don’t know, was probably the top recruit in LIU’s 2012 recruiting class. He was a three-star recruit by ESPN recruiting which for an NEC school is like a five-star recruit who ESPN gave an 89 grade. He was an early signee for former LIU head coach Jim Ferry in November of 2011 along side current Blackbird E.J. Reed. After Ferry won his second straight NEC championships with LIU in March 2012, he accepted the head coaching job at Duquesne in April 2012. That same day, Jack Perri was named Ferry’s successor as head coach at LIU.
With the coaching change, Waller-Prince decided he wanted to play elsewhere and LIU granted him his release from his National Letter of Intent in May 2012 and a few days later, he signed on to play for Scott Drew and the Big 12’s Baylor Bears.
It wasn’t a shock Waller-Prince decided to play for Baylor. He was a Texas kid, another San Antonian just like Julian Boyd, Jason Brickman and recent graduate Brandon Thompson. He had a tremendous senior season in high school after signing early with LIU. He averaged 21.4 ppg and 11.2 rpg as a senior and was named All-Area Player of the Year. His stock grew during that senior year and he looked like a recruiting steal for Ferry and LIU. He looked like a player who would not only play immediately but had the possibility of making a major impact in the NEC as a freshman and would be the next star player to come to LIU from the Lone Star State.
As it went, Waller-Prince left and Reed, who was another kid who comes from Texas, decided to stay and oddly enough, Reed who wasn’t as heralded coming out of high school, was the one of big freshman surprises in the NEC. He was named to the 2013 NEC All-Rookie Team and was the de facto runner-up to Mount St. Mary’s Shivaughn Wiggins in the NEC Rookie of the Year race. Reed helped contribute to LIU’s third straight NEC championship while playing in all 34 games, scoring 7.7 ppg and 4.0 rpg playing just under 20 mpg.
So what if Taurean Waller-Prince had decided to stay and play for Jack Perri and LIU instead of leaving for Baylor? How insane would it be to think LIU having Waller-Prince and E.J. Reed starting in the front court this season? It is kind of depressing when Blackbird fans like myself really think it through. Not only would LIU likely continue having one of the best front courts in the NEC, it would not be out of the question to think that LIU would likely have been picked to win a fourth straight NEC championship.
How much easier would last season have been for Perri if he had Waller-Prince to utilize once Julian Boyd went down for the season? He probably could have started in Boyd’s place or at minimum played a lot of the minutes that had to go Kenny Onyechi who wasn’t 100% all season and to Khalil Murphy who had to be pressed into duty with mostly not so pretty results.
But that wasn’t the case. At Baylor last season, Waller-Prince played in just 24 of their 37 games, coming off the bench in all his games. He averaged just 3.7 ppg and 2.2 rpg while playing just over 6 minutes a contest. He scored a combined 48 points in three blowout Baylor wins while scoring just 40 points in the other 21 games he played. He played on a mostly veteran team last season which is why he minutes was limited last season. His playing time will likely see a dramatic increase as well as his productivity this season at Baylor. It wasn’t like he had a horrible season either. He may not had played as much as he would have had had he stayed at LIU but Baylor did win 23 games last year and also did win a postseason NIT championship in April. He also still has multiple opportunities to play in the NCAA tournament in the coming few years playing in a power conference like the Big 12 compared to a one-bid mid-major conference like the NEC.
Yet, I couldn’t help to wonder what if? What if this season we were seeing an LIU team with Waller-Prince and Reed with Jason Brickman feeding them the ball and then adding Julian Boyd to the mix for the NEC run. Once again, it is depressing to think.
Had he decided to stay in Brooklyn instead of going back home, he could’ve averaged similar number to Reed if not surpassed it. He might well have in the NEC. It’s not too hard to think he could have averaged nearly 10 ppg and at least 5 rpg and played in every LIU game in his freshman year if you think about more recent LIU forwards who have excelled here and look at their freshman years. Julian Boyd as a freshman all the way back in 2008-09, averaged 10.4 ppg and 6.4 rpg in 23.2 mpg and he didn’t start a single game that season. Jamal Olasewere who graduated after last season, averaged 8.6 ppg and 6.8 rpg in 24.8 mpg in the 2009-10 season and he started in 29 of 31 games that season. Even Kenny Onyechi who also recently graduated after last season, averaged 8.1 ppg and 4.7 rpg in 25.7 mpg in his freshman season while starting all 31 games playing along side Olasewere in the front court. Boyd and Olasewere as we know each won NEC Player of the Year awards in their LIU careers. I’m not trying to say Waller-Prince would eventually become the next LIU NEC Player of the Year but he would definitely have been a star player on this team as he progressed on his four-year college career.
But it wasn’t meant to be. Who knows how Waller-Prince staying at LIU would have affected how Perri recruited for this season? Would they have went after a Nura Zanna who is considered a pretty big time recruit for LIU? Maybe they wouldn’t have the scholarship necessary to bring in a Landon Atterberry who is starting in Boyd’s place to start this season or a Glenn Feidanga who can turn out to be a really good player for LIU down the line in the future.
There is no real answer to any of this. It is all water well under the bridge at this point. Yet a Blackbird fan can dream but just don’t dream about it for too long because it only ends up in a cold sweat nightmare in the end when you realized Waller-Prince is going to be running the floor for the Bears yet again this season.