Devonta Prince no longer uses his original shooting hand.
A near-tragic morning walk to school in 2007 for the Brooklyn Center boys’ basketball star ended that. Prince, 8 years old at the time, made his daily trek on foot to school one April morning when suddenly a 140-pound dog came charging after him.
“It was a pretty big dog,” Prince recalled. “I tried to run from it.”
Prince has since outrun many players on the court, but he couldn’t break away from the dog, which bit him severely. It took his two brothers and a couple of nearby adults to rescue him.
“If it weren’t for my brothers and the truck driver that was there, I probably wouldn’t be here right now,” Prince said.
Prince eventually played three varsity basketball seasons with one of his brothers, Sammie Watkins Jr., whom Prince credits for his success. His dream of playing looked bleak initially after surgery from the dog bites, though.
“My doctor told me I would never be able to play basketball again because of my arms, because I’ve got screws in my arms,” Prince said.
It didn’t deter Prince, who found a different way to shoot the ball. His left hand took more time to heal, which affected his basketball skills and writing for school.
“I was born lefthanded, but now I’m shooting with my right on a lot of things,” Prince said.
He has played varsity for Brooklyn Center since seventh grade. The 6-3 senior forward hit 1,000 career points Feb. 9 in a 69-47 victory over Providence Academy.
Centaurs coach Matthew McCollister said in 17 years of coaching he hasn’t seen someone change shooting hands and “be able to do it and then do it at the level where you’re going to be able to play college basketball.”
Prince has drawn Division I interest from Nebraska-Omaha in particular. He has several other options in mind, too, such as junior colleges but won’t decide until after the season.
Prince averages 14.2 points per game for the Centaurs (16-6) this season but doesn’t lead the team in scoring. Younger players such as freshman guard Lu’Cye Patterson, who with averages a team-high 16.8 points per game, have benefited from Prince’s leadership and competitiveness.
“Going up against him everyday in practice and because of having him and Deshawn [Pickford], too, on the team, we’re able to play a tougher schedule,” McCollister said.
That schedule included Minneapolis North, Milwaukee Vincent and Michele Clark of Illinois. The Centaurs lost to North but defeated both of the non-Minnesota schools.
Brooklyn Center has a seven-game winning streak going through Feb. 14. It is seeking a high seed in Class 2A, Section 5, with a 3-0 mark against section opponents. The Centaurs hope to end three-decade state tournament drought this year.
“Our section is really tough [with] Watertown-Mayer and Annandale, but this team has not backed down from anybody all year,” McCollister said.
Prince’s leadership points that way. He lives with his mother while his father lives in Mississippi. Prince has worked a plethora of different jobs to help support his mother, and he has striven to improve his academics with the help of team study halls instituted by McCollister.
To help meet off- and on-court challenges, Prince begins each day with prayer and the sight of a newspaper article about his dog bites on his wall.
Said Prince, “If it weren’t for God, I would not be here.”