Girls basketball: Anna Prins parlayed strong finish into WNBA draft’s second round

Cliff Grassmick
Anna Prins (55), here playing against the University of Colorado as an Iowa State freshman in 2010, was drafted on Monday night by the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun.

Sitting in the bowels of the Hilton Coliseum on Monday night watching the WNBA draft went down as one of Anna Prins’ tensest moments of her college basketball career.

But waiting until the end of the second round for her name to be called did not elicit the type of emotions one would expect from such a momentous occasion. The Iowa State University center did not scream or shout, whoop or holler.

Instead, she sat quietly in the Cyclones’ film room attempting to soak in the moment as her teammates applauded her accomplishment.

“My personality is quiet, so jumping out of my chair was not my first instinct,” said one of two Iowa State players selected. “I just stared at the screen and my face turned red.”

Getting drafted along with teammate Chelsea Poppens (18th pick), the former Broomfield High School star had plenty to blush about in her selection. Being the Connecticut Sun’s second pick, and the 23rd overall, far exceeded Prins’ expectations.

When Prins decided to enter the draft after the Cyclones’ run to the second round of the NCAA tournament, she fully expected to get picked late in the three-round affair. But with a strong conclusion to her college career, the 6-foot, 7-inch center became the fourth-highest draft choice in Cyclones history.

“It was my finish that I think really got teams looking at me,” she said. “There was talk all year about my unique skill set — a 6-7 center that can shoot the 3. But I sensed coaches were losing interest, because I was not putting up huge games to start.”

It was from the end of January on — in the thick of Iowa State’s Big 12 schedule — when Prins began lighting up the hardwood. She scored in the double digits in 12 of her final 17 games, including a career-high 32-point night March 10 against Oklahoma in the semifinals of the Big 12 tournament.

“I kind of hit a point on the season where I said I just had to go out and lay it on the line and play,” said Prins, who finished the season averaging 12.3 points per game.

Prins’ scoring versatility and size both caught Ann Donovan’s attention. The Sun coach believes the rookie has the potential to play a complementary role alongside one of the WNBA’s top low-post players — Tina Charles. But Prins has to prove herself in a couple of areas when she reports in early May for training camp to make the cut for the Sun’s final roster of 11.

“For sure the physicality and pace of the league are some of the major adjustments players have to make,” Donovan said. “And they are two question marks for Anna and how quickly she can work into them.”

The brutal play of the Big 12 was a good training ground for Prins, Donovan points out. And while it will be a step up in the WNBA, the coach believes the center had seen some comparable competition. One such example Donovan gave was Prins’ play against the No. 1 draft choice overall, Brittney Griner of Baylor — a post player who dominated the college ranks for four seasons.

“What was attractive to me was how she matched up with her,” Donovan said. “She played her multiple times in her career and there was not one iota of fear or trepidation in Anna.”

Prins plans to focus on entering camp in tip-top shape and allowing the chips to fall from there.

It has been a whirlwind season for Prins. In addition to parlaying her first injury-free year in college to a career-best season and a draft choice, the center also got engaged. Her fiancé’s proposal made national news, coming at mid-court after a Cyclones win. And while giving the pros a crack has changed a few dates for Prins and Ryan De Hamer, it is nothing the couple can’t roll with.

“The plan is looking to have the wedding next summer, but that’s alright because we’re flexible people,” she said.

Follow Elwood on Twitter @ElwoodKShelton.