Brittany Schock / Asst. photo editor
During four years at Ohio State, point guard Samantha Prahalis earned her place in the record books of women’s basketball. On April 16, Prahalis received the opportunity to continue her stardom at the professional level when she was drafted by the Phoenix Mercury with the No. 6-overall pick in the 2012 WNBA Draft.
Prahalis set Big Ten conference and OSU school records with 901 assists over her four-year career. She ranks fourth on the Buckeyes’ all-time scoring list with 2,010 points, and was only the second player in Division I women’s basketball history with at least 2,000 career points and 900 career assists. She was also named the 2012 Big Ten Player of the Year, and was a first-team USBWA All-American.
Prahalis said making it to the WNBA has been a goal of hers since she “got serious about basketball in high school.”
“To get drafted, and just to be in the room and get your name called and hold the jersey up with the commissioner,” Prahalis said. “It was just cool. It’s reaching a dream.”
Prahalis said she was “super excited” to be drafted by the Mercury and thinks her new team is the right fit for her.
“They’re a fast-paced team, they’re up-tempo,” Prahalis noted. “So I think that fits me perfectly.”
Mercury coach and general manager Corey Gaines said he was in attendance for Prahalis’ final home game on Feb. 23, when she set the OSU single-game scoring record with 42 points in a victory against Minnesota.
Gaines said he believes the system his team runs will suit Prahalis well.
“The way she plays, she makes other people better,” Gaines said. “I think she’ll flourish, I think she’ll be one of those players to leave college and expand her game to a better style.”
Prahalis joined Jessica Davenport, who was selected second overall in 2007, and Jantel Lavender, selected fifth overall in 2011, as the third OSU alum to be a WNBA first-round draft pick. Prahalis also became the seventh player to be drafted from OSU under Jim Foster’s tenure as head coach. Foster began coaching the Buckeyes in 2002.
Prahalis gave credit to Foster in helping her get to the WNBA.
“I am confident in the way coach Foster prepared me for the league,” Prahalis said. “He really taught me to deal with different situations.”
Like Gaines, Foster also said he thinks playing for the Phoenix Mercury will be a “great fit” for Prahalis.
“I think that she’s going to a very transition-oriented team, and that by far is her strength,” Foster said.
Prahalis joins a roster that features Diana Taurasi, who has led the WNBA in scoring for the past four consecutive seasons. Gaines said he believes adding Prahalis to a talented roster will make her better.
“She has good players to pass to,” Gaines said. “So it should improve her game, and also make her game a little easier for her playing in our league.”
Gaines said he hopes Prahalis is ready to start at point guard this season but also recognizes that the transition from OSU to the Mercury will be challenging.
“It’s going to be a drastic change for her,” Gaines said. “It’s probably going to go against everything she’s learned or been taught before. And I’m not saying what she’s been taught before is wrong. It’s just that we teach things a little differently, and it’s a different style of game.”
Prahalis said she felt her personality was sometimes misunderstood, but hopes WNBA players and fans will be more accepting.
“I think in college, I was kind of scrutinized because I was being me,” Prahalis said. “So hopefully the WNBA has a little bit of a more open mind.”
Prahalis also said she hopes OSU basketball fans will remain interested in her WNBA career.
“I hope the fans from OSU will come over to WNBA and continue to support me,” Prahalis said. “They believed in me, all my flashiness, my style, my competitiveness, so I hope they just continue to follow me.”