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Article updated: 6/22/2012 11:00 PM

There's a silver lining to Prince's injury

Epiphanny Prince will miss 6-8 weeks with a broken foot, but the Chicago Sky guard will return after the Olympics.

Epiphanny Prince will miss 6-8 weeks with a broken foot, but the Chicago Sky guard will return after the Olympics.

 

Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

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By Patricia Babcock McGraw

Friends and family make meals for Epiphanny Prince.

They drive her around and clean her apartment, too.

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The Chicago Sky guard has also gotten so many special goodies from well-wishers, like chocolate-covered strawberries and cheery arrangements that are supposed to look like flowers but are made out of fruit, that she can barely keep up.

"My dad is here with me and he said that we have so many of those 'edible arrangements,' that we should start making smoothies (before they go bad)," Prince said with a laugh.

Prince can laugh now, even to the point where she jokes about trying to milk the special treatment for as long as she can.

"I'm definitely doing that," Prince laughed.

But, the truth is, Prince would give it all up in a heartbeat if she could ditch her crutches and get back on the court immediately.

Instead, Prince, who was leading the WNBA in scoring at nearly 25 points per game and had tied a league record with three consecutive 30-plus-point games, is laid up for 6-8 weeks with a broken right root that is casted and protected by a bulky brace. She rolled her foot going after a loose ball about eight minutes into last Saturday's game against the Indiana Fever in Indianapolis.

Prince, who has never been seriously hurt before, eventually returned to the bench on crutches, but never returned to the game. She had surgery on Monday.

"When I got the X-ray (in the locker room in Indianapolis), I cried," Prince said. "But then I stopped right away because I knew I was going to go back out to the bench and I didn't want my teammates to see me. They had another half to play and I didn't want them to worry about me. I wanted them to keep playing hard."

As hard as the Sky plays in the coming weeks, life will still be much, much harder without Prince. The Fever wound up coasting to a 14-point win with Prince on the bench that night and other teams will be eager to get a shot at a first-place Sky team at less than full strength.

Prince filled so many needs for the Sky. She was a go-to scorer in the clutch. She allowed point guard Courtney Vandersloot to concentrate on playmaking rather than scoring and she pulled defenses away from the basket, which opened up the middle for all-star center Sylvia Fowles like never before. Fowles was still seeing double and triples teams, but not nearly as often as she had in the past.

"This is a big test for us. We relied on 'Piph' for a lot and my stomach just dropped when I saw her on crutches (at Indiana)," said Vandersloot, who averages about 7 points per game. "She was doing so well and it's just a bad time. But she'll bounce back and we're just all going to have to step up more while she's gone. I am for sure. I'm going to have to look to attack more and be more aggressive on the offensive end."

Fowles (19 ppg) believes she can do more, even under less-than-ideal conditions.

"If it takes me being a little more patient so that I can get the ball in a spot where I can get through three defenders, that's what it's going to have to come down to," Fowles said. "But that's nothing I haven't seen before. Having 'Piph' out there (on the perimeter) opened things up for me and made my job a lot easier. I had a little bit more breathing room out there.

"Now, it's back to the real world, I guess."

The good news is that such a harsh reality won't be permanent.

If a WNBA player had to pick a season to suffer an early injury, this one would be it. This season, like each season during an Olympic year, will be interrupted in mid-July for a month-long Olympic break.

By the time the Sky reconvenes for its first game back in mid-August, Prince should be nine weeks out from her surgery and raring to go. If that happens, she'll have missed only eight games and will have 17 more to play.

In a normal season, this injury probably would have ended her season.

"I think that's why I haven't been so down about this, because I know I can still come back," Prince said. "If I really focus on my rehab, I can come back strong. And I think we still have really good players who can hold things down while I'm gone."

pbabcock@dailyherald.com

Patricia Babcock McGraw has been covering the Sky since its inaugural season in 2006. She is also the color analyst for all Sky television games, which are broadcast on Comcast CN100.

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