The Wildcats and Prince never seemed to be a great fit.
It may have started with Mustafa Shakur of all people. When Prince signed with Arizona Shakur was thought to be a player that would bolt for the NBA after his sophomore season and Prince could come in and compete for the starting point guard spot. Shakur came back and Prince was a role player.
Although he was the highest rated of the three freshmen out of high school but had to watch as Marcus Williams emerged as a the star.
Prince had his run-ins with Lute Olson. He was held out of a home game against Oregon State last season and there were reports that his work ethic was not what the team demanded.
At the end of last season Prince was quoted as saying he was going to consider all his options, but by the summer he was back in Tucson playing in the TSPL and contemplating his future at Arizona.
In an interview over the summer he claimed that he had no real run-ins with Olson but that he had some personal issues that sidetracked him. Those issues, or at least a portion of those issues appear to be a nasty virus that has plagued him off and on since last spring.
Those symptoms returned with a vengeance this year and Prince was kept away from the team following the New Mexico State game in November. He was back in uniform for the Houston game on Sunday, but did not see any action in a game that saw plenty of minutes for the reserves.
From what I could gather Prince did not want to leave but felt he had to. Although his health was a concern, there were problems between he and Olson. One source close to the situation told me that Prince's return to the team was partially dependent on getting cleared by the medical staff but that it would be "Lute Olson's decision" if Prince had a future with the program.
It soon became apparent that he did not.
From an output standpoint the Cats will not miss Prince, at least not in the short term. He was no better than the third string point guard and minutes at the wing were limited with all of the talent the Wildcats possess.
While he could have factored in next year, the Cats already recruited over him. Nic Wise seems poised to start at the point next year and both Jerryd Bayless and Laval Lucas-Perry have the ability to play the one. Even if the Wildcats lose a few of their underclass wings, they add Jamelle Horne and Zane Johnson.
In the end it just wasn't a good fit. For whatever reason Prince could not succeed in the Wildcat system. He could not develop in Tucson.
Over the summer Josh Pastner confessed that Prince may have had the most raw talent of anyone on the roster.
‘If J.P. can put it all together he can be the best player on the team," Pasnter said.
Prince never came close.
He'll be another in a long line of ‘what might have been' players to come through Arizona and leave early in his career. Maybe he'll find a home and develop into the player many thought he could be. Maybe he'll be another footnote in Arizona basketball lore. Another transfer who never made a splash.
Arizona will be fine without Prince. Hopefully for J.P. he'll be fine without Arizona. Maybe he can go to Vanderbilt or another program and live up to the high expectations. Maybe he can turn into the guy some recruiting analysts compared to Penny Hardaway and Shaun Livingston.
Of course he could easily be the next Andrew Zahn or Travis Hanour.
While most analysts and coaches loved Prince coming out of high school, he was no slam dunk. One West Coast coach felt that he was limited offensively. Another coach questioned his attitude. Both played a factor in his time in Tucson.
It takes a certain type of player to survive and thrive under the critical eye of Lute Olson. More often than not, those who stick it out go on to great things in the game of basketball.
No program wants to lose a player with the potential of a J.P. Prince. In the end he's a 6-6 point guard with great floor vision and nice athleticism. He could still turn into a very nice player. He could still have a great college and professional career. He just won't do it as a Wildcat.
As for Arizona, they will be fine. Barring injuries to both Mustafa Shakur and Nic Wise, Prince was going to have no bearing on the overall success of this team. They are a team that can make a deep run come March regardless of whether or not Prince is on the roster. In fact, there is word that Olson wasn't going to lose any sleep if Prince left the program and that this could wind up being addition by subtraction. To that matter, the future seem secure without Prince's presence.