Haley Prince (Pictured)
By Ron Holt
Haley Prince, the lone senior on Bixby’s Lady Spartan basketball roster, went from worrying about being accepted at a new school to embracing a leadership role on the court and in the classroom a few years later.
During her eighth-grade year, Prince’s family moved from Knoxville, Tennessee to Bixby. The transition to a new school in the middle of a school year was difficult, at best. Joining Bixby’s girls’ basketball program helped ease the transition.
“It was definitely different coming to a different demographic and the schools were very different … they weren’t as cliquey here,” Prince said. “I thought I was going to be an outcast and no one would approach me. I was worried about making friends at first.
“But the first day of school we had a 6:30 basketball practice and when I walked into the locker room everyone was super nice and introduced themselves to me. I remember Gentry (Baldwin) actually shook my hand … it was a very warm welcome.”
Prince, the daughter of Steve and Laurie Prince, has seen limited varsity playing time during her career, playing mainly in a reserve role. But she understands the value of her contributions to the program. She also wants to provide leadership as the only senior on the team. Her efforts haven’t gone unnoticed.
“Haley has been a big asset to the program. She is committed, loyal and consistent,” said Lady Spartan head coach Tina Thomas. “She is a great program player. She’s always ready and eager to help her team be successful in any way she can.
“She knows her role and fulfills it with a great attitude,” coach Thomas added.
Prince, a 5-10 center, works hard in practice helping junior starting post players Meredith Mayes and Alyssa Nielsen prepare for upcoming games. She’s a positive voice during games.
“I know someone has to step up and do the hard work when no one sees it. It’s not easy going against Meredith every single day in practice,” said Prince, who is National Honor Society vice-president and Leadership vice-president. “I know I’m challenging them just like they are challenging me to get better every day.
“Last year since I was the only junior it made me think that I’m going to be the only senior and I’ll need to be a leader. I really looked up to Kate (Bradley) last year. She was someone I could go talk to and she was super positive. I think that’s probably where I got the positive mindset.
“I feel like I’m a natural born leader … I like to be in charge,” she noted.
Prince, who is considering competing in track this spring, has seen the Lady Spartan culture evolve since she was a freshman. She’s committed to helping maintain the positive approach which strengthens team chemistry.
“The dynamic in the program since my freshman year kind of flipped how everyone thought and we raised our expectations,” she said. “We emphasized knowing everyone on the team and encouraging each other so no one gets down on themselves. When they do things can go downhill.”
When she graduates Prince plans to attend the University of Oklahoma and major in secondary education with an emphasis on biology. Coaching might also be part of her future. Her two older sisters, Madison and Ashley, are Bixby graduates who currently attend OU.
She’s focused now, however, on helping the Lady Spartans finish the regular season strong while maintaining a goal of returning to the Class 6A state tournament.
Prince will also continue experiencing many “lasts” alone. She will be honored, along with her family, Friday night as Bixby hosts Senior Night following a Frontier Valley Conference game with Jenks.
“It’s been difficult being the only senior because no one else understands what it’s like having all theses lasts coming up like graduation and my final prom. But my teammates do a good job supporting me,” said Prince, who finished off Tuesday’s 71-29 home win over Muskogee with four late points.
“I try to live in the now and not focus on the ending, but it does sneak up on you.”