Sammy Prahalis: Born This Way

Sammy Prahalis: Born This WayPhotography by Sophie Elgort

Ohio State senior point guard Sammy Prahalis is one of the most exciting players in college basketball, male or female, and her mission is as modest as her game: to make women's hoops as exciting as men's. She takes us back to her native New York to find the roots of her flashy game.

By Ben York

Harlem, spring 2005. Clutching a basketball in one hand and battered kicks in the other, Sammy Prahalis steps onto the fabled court at Rucker Park for the first time.

All she knows is that her AAU coach told her to be here at 3 p.m. for a tournament. No over-the-top entourage accompanies her, just her mom and a friend. At 15, Prahalis is the youngest player on the blacktop by a good three or four years. Unassuming. Skinny. Long, brown hair. No tattoos (yet). Quiet.

Nervous? Maybe a little. But her excitement trumps any jitters.

Nothing about this particular day is unusual. The weather couldn’t be more perfect for outdoor basketball; maybe 70 degrees with an insignificant breeze that barely bothers the nets. Ambient noises from the surrounding city cloak the Rucker. Prahalis hears nothing.

Time seems to slow down. Clarity. Focus. Once she laces ‘em up, a strange, unconscious thing happens—the teen-age girl known as Sammy Prahalis takes a temporary leave of absence.

The humble, exceedingly shy kid from Long Island becomes “Styles P,” her alter-ego (a label given to her after a particularly devastating crossover). But unlike the Hulk, Prahalis doesn't undergo a transformation when she gets angry; she goes all super hero when she picks up a basketball.

As the game ebbs and flows, Styles P waits patiently for her opportunity.

It’s her ball now. Top of the key. Open lane. Attack.

She dribbles to the left with a juke then crosses back over to her right. Sick. Her defender is already two steps behind her. Styles P sees the defense clogging the paint so she steps back. Her fade-away jumper from a foot beyond the three-point line drops effortlessly.

Time stops again. Silence.

Then a murmur ripples through the crowd and the rest of the players on the court. “Who is this girl?”

Styles P cracks a shy smile as the announcer at Rucker Park addresses her by her alter-ego over the loudspeaker. The crowd erupts in thunderous applause.

And, thus, the Sammy Prahalis Phenomenon—all-conference guard and single-season assists leader at Ohio State, the most galvanizing player in women's college hoops, and a likely 1st round WNBA pick—began.

Tags: womens-basketball, sammy-prahalis
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