BELTON-When Ty Prince first met Jeremie Hart in 2020, Prince had a goal. A goal of continuing his basketball career after his time at Mary Hardin-Baylor and taking his game to the professional level.
On Wednesday, that vision became a reality for the 6-foot-5 standout, as he signed a professional contract with KB Istogu Basketball Club of the Kosovo Superliga.
“I’m so proud of Ty,” UMHB head coach Clif Carroll said Thursday. “He deserves this. He has worked extremely hard to become a better basketball player, a better person, a better student, and a better Christian. He has put himself in position to do something pretty cool. Playing professional basketball is an uncommon feat.”
On Friday, the Texas native arrived in Kosovo, a nation in southern Europe, bordered by Serbia to the north and east, and Albania to the southwest. The Kosovo Superliga has eight teams, with Prince’s team located in Istog, a city with a population around 5,000.
“To see his growth over the past few years has been amazing,” said Hart, who serves as the Director of Player Development at New Mexico State and coached Prince for two seasons while on the UMHB staff. “I couldn’t be more happy for him and his family, because he deserves this. He told me when I met him that he wanted to be a pro when he left UMHB. And here we are.”
In a conversation with True To The Cru on Thursday, Prince expressed his excitement for the opportunity ahead. He noted that few D-III players get the chance to continue their careers at the next level, which makes him more determined to make the most of this opportunity.
“I’m really happy right now, reaching this goal,” he said. “The sacrifice I have to make is being away from my family, but I know in the long run, it’ll work out. If I keep my head down and keep grinding, I can move up [and earn more opportunities here in Europe].”
Prince, who was a senior for UMHB this past season, averaged 17.7 points per game, including a 33-point effort in the Crusaders’ Round of 16 matchup at Christopher Newport in the NCAA Tournament. The native of Thorndale, Texas represented UMHB in the Reese’s D-III All-Star Game in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and was named First Team All-ASC in all three years he played in Belton. Prince was also the ASC’s West Division Newcomer of the Year in 2020-21, and an All-Region selection by the NABC in 2021-22.
In a short conversation with True To The Cru on Wednesday, Hart talked about Prince’s skill set, and what he brings to the table. European basketball has long been known for having dynamic wings and forwards who have both size and tremendous passing vision, and Prince should fit in well. Even at 6-foot-5, his ball-handling skills are polished, and he led UMHB in assists in 2022-23, with 107.
“Ty has a unique ability. He has a high basketball IQ. He has a knack for the game, and a good feel for the game. He can affect the game in so many ways, whether you need scoring one night, or rebounding, defense, or assists. It makes him valuable. I think the way that he plays and sees the game will make him a good European player, because he can play the European style as a big guard who can do multiple things.”
Some of Prince’s earliest improvements on the court came under the direction of famed Central Texas shooting coach Alvie King, who worked with Prince starting in junior high. There, in Milano, Texas, Prince played pickup games often with some of the area’s best players, making strides in his skill set.
“I really couldn’t shoot at first, and then he gave me the basics of how to shoot well,” Prince said of learning from King. “Playing with those guys, I got much better, because I was going up against guys who were at my same skill set or even better.
Throughout his time rising in the ranks, especially more recently as his career at UMHB unfolded, Prince has regularly had the chance to improve against talented players. He performed well against a very athletic, defensive-minded Christopher Newport squad–the eventual national champions–in last year’s NCAA Tournament. During the summers, he has trained in the past with Hart, and worked out with several accomplished players, which should prepare him well for his first season as a pro.
“At a higher level, everybody is quicker and stronger, so being in those situations, it showed me that I had to get quicker and stronger,” Prince said. “Your IQ has to be a little better. Your decision-making has to be more precise.”
It is the all-around ability to handle the ball, shoot with accuracy from anywhere on the floor, and pass with precision that made Prince such a tough matchup within the American Southwest Conference for the last three seasons. And it is that same skill set that impressed those at KB Istogu, who knew Prince was a player they wanted on their team.
“They’re excited to get him,” Carroll said. “[His coach] said that they put in the tape and it was an immediate ‘Yes, we want this guy’.
“I think his coach is really excited about the possibilities of Ty being able to come in and play multiple positions, guard multiple positions ,and really fill up the stat sheet like he did for us.”
There will be a fellow D-III basketball connection in the Kosovo Superliga, interestingly enough, as former Randolph-Macon College star Buzz Anthony signed with KB Bashkimi Prizren in August. Anthony was the 2022 Most Outstanding Player in the D-III Men’s Final Four and is currently averaging 10.7 points per game.
KB Istogu is off to a 1-2 start to the 2023-24 season, with its fourth game of the year set for Oct. 14. Prince’s signing is the second notable addition to Istogu’s roster within the last week, as the club also signed former Georgia Southwestern State point guard Kahlon Whitley four days ago.