NEW YORK (AP) Epiphanny Prince will finally get to play for her hometown team, the New York Liberty.
Prince is back after missing the first 10 games of the regular season while she was competing for Russia in the EuroBasket tournament. The Liberty held their own without the New York native whom they acquired in a blockbuster offseason from Chicago for Cappie Pondexter. New York (6-4) is tied for second place in the Eastern Conference.
''I'm happy to be back here and hope that I can provide them some help,'' Prince said at practice Monday. ''I'm still trying to learn the plays and know we have a busy month ahead.''
Prince tried to play in the Liberty's most recent game, at Chicago on June 30, but wasn't feeling well after the long trip from Hungary.
''I flew from Hungary to Italy, Italy to New York and then New York to Chicago,'' Prince said of her travel back from the tournament. ''I wish I could have played, but I was feeling the effects of the travel. I'm glad we were able to win that game.''
Prince was disappointed her Russian team couldn't do more at the Olympic qualifier. Russia finished in sixth place, losing to Turkey in overtime. Had Prince's team won, it would have made a final Olympic qualifier next spring. Now Russia will not compete in the Olympics for the first time since 1984 when the country boycotted the Los Angeles games.
''It's unfortunate that was the outcome,'' Prince said. ''Now I'm home and can focus on helping this team.''
Fortunately for Prince and the Liberty, due to a scheduling quirk, the team will have had nine days between the Chicago game and their next one Thursday against Washington. The break has come at a good time to allow Prince to become accustomed to her new team.
''We got a little practice time with her to get her up to speed,'' Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer said. ''I think we need the other scorer, no question about that. Getting Piph, she can make things happen on the basketball court.''
Prince did play with the team in the preseason for five days before heading to the tournament. While the Liberty play Thursday in Washington, Prince will have to wait until next week before she gets a chance to play at home at Madison Square Garden.
She grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where she set the national high school record for points in a game when she had 113. Prince then went on to star at Rutgers before leaving after her junior year to go play in Europe.
The Liberty have a difficult month ahead with six of their eight games on the road.
No, the WNBA schedule makers didn't have it out for them. It was their own company, with Madison Square Garden hosting concerts for most of the month. Comedian Kevin Hart has two shows this week followed by Dispatch Hunger's two concerts. U2 is performing eight shows from July 18-31.
The only home games for New York will be against San Antonio and Connecticut next week.
''We had some dates blocked in July because of big concerts. It's like having the circus in town,'' Laimbeer said. ''I think we've got pretty good chemistry. If we can come together and play well, going on the road isn't so bad for us. I'm not worried about it.''
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