VAUGHT: Smith helps Prince set Olympic goals

Not long after Tayshaun Prince came to the University of Kentucky to play basketball, then coach Tubby Smith had him -- just as he did every player -- write down his career goals.

"My goal coming into college was to get to the NBA. When coach Smith looked at my goals, he asked if I had thought about playing in the Olympics," said Prince. "I said I would love to play in the Olympics. He said, ‘Then why not write that down as a goal.'

"But as a player, your first dream as a kid was to get to the NBA. You watch your role models in the NBA and compare yourself to them and dream of getting there. Once you talk about the Olympics, it is a situation where that is the top level of basketball. It's great to be part of that."

Prince is in Las Vegas now training with the Olympic team that will play next month in China and try to help the United States win the gold medal it couldn't in 2004.

The 6-9, 215-pound Prince almost sounds as excited about playing in China as he did when he was a giddy kid talking about coming to UK to play.

"How could you not be excited. You are talking about playing with other great guys, especially in our league where everybody is so tough and competitive for 82 games and then the playoffs. You get together with the Olympic team for a month, and the competition just gets tougher," Prince said. "Guys really get after it. Things are hard to come by at this level of competition. But we've been together a couple of years and I hope that chemistry will help us in the long haul."

Prince knows about the long haul. He has been in the NBA since the 2002-2003 season and emerged as a huge factor for the Detroit Pistons starting with the 2003 playoffs. His versatility and durability are huge assets that he's parlayed into NBA stardom.

He could have skipped the Olympics to rest for next season. However, he never thought about not playing.

"I have had the opportunity to play into the month of June every year (in the NBA playoffs)," Prince said Tuesday after practice in Las Vegas. "Everybody wants to know if I will be fatigued going into the season when the Olympics are done. But this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. This doesn't come around all the time. There are so many great players they could have chosen to have been on this team. When my name was called to play, it was a no-brainer for me whether I am fatigued or not. I get to represent my country. I get to fulfill a dream.

"We have a month off after the Olympics. Being fatigued is not even in the back of my head. All you have to do is talk about representing your country and that's enough to refresh me."

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