When students at Fairview School would draw pictures of basketball players, it would be inevitable that many of them would etch the number 22 on the jersey.
In the city of Auburn, No. 22 is pretty identifiable. It was the number worn by Kirsten Prue during a career in which she epitomized EL girls’ basketball.
“I think she was just such a role model for the kids,” said EL coach Craig Jipson. “My son is in the sixth grade, and he’s a point guard. I see him do things that I know he got from watching Kirsten Prue for four years. She was such a great role model in so many ways to everybody in the community.”
Prue finished her EL career in pretty good fashion. She was the KVAC South Player of the Year for the second straight season. She joined the elite at EL by scoring her 1,000th point. She helped her Red Eddies, the defending KVAC champs, earn the second seed in Eastern A and return to the conference final. She also led the KVAC South in scoring (15.3) and assists (4.8).
“Good players will make a team great, but I think Kirsten made our program great,” said Jipson, who says Prue’s influence will have lasting effects even after her graduation. “The best thing we can say about Kirsten is that she’s a winner. She would just will us to win. No matter what the situation was her last two years, everyone on the floor believed we’d win because we had Prue. She went 30-4 in her last 34 games and one was a two-point loss.”
Her role was especially felt when Prue was lost late in the regular season to a stress fracture in her foot. She missed four regular season game, the KVAC game and the tournament. EL lost six of its last seven games, including the KVAC rematch and Eastern A quarterfinal. EL averaged 55 points with her and 36.8 to end the regular season without her.
“She made everybody in our program better,” said Jipson. “When she went down, almost everybody’s scoring average dipped, and there were obviously a lot more shots to go around. She just got her teammates easier shots.”
Still, Prue handled the disappointment with grace, dignity and as the ultimate team player. Her goal was to cheer on her team as best she could. She even won the KVAC 3-point shooting contest while injured.
“I definitely had a lot of fun on the bench,” said Prue. “I didn’t want to let it ruin my season or let it ruin the way I remember high school basketball. I wanted us to go as far as we could. So I just tried to have fun with it.”
She returned for a curtain call last weekend in the McDonald’s Senior All-Star game. She wasn’t supposed to be ready to play yet, but she did anyway. She made a quick pass to a post player for an easy basket and followed that up with a 3-pointer.
“It was a nice way to close high school basketball,” said Prue, who missed the end of soccer season with a concussion. “I got to play one more game as a high school student. That’s better than to not play at all and go right to next year.”
Prue had high hopes for this season. She had a Red Eddies team with depth around her. It was a club that would allow her to pass the ball the way she likes but also the freedom to hit her shots, too. Even with the constant double teams, she was able to navigate around defenses by using her skill, court awareness and teammates.
“I was scoring four points a game but we were winning by like 20 points so that was exciting,” said Prue. “When I was double-teamed, they were able to finish.”
Her 1,000 point was a career highlight that put her on a banner with just two other females, but soon thereafter, her injury surfaced.
“I had played quite a few games on it before I had to go to the doctor,” said Prue. “It got to the point where I couldn’t walk.”
She had talked with friends who had experienced stress fracture injuries. Hearing their accounts, made her fear the worst. When the doctor confirmed it, she wasn’t surprised. Still, that didn’t cushion the blow.
“It was awful,” she says. “I had to think about not being able to play on the Civic Center floor again. We had such an amazing record, and we had lost one game. We were playing so well together. It was really tough to realize that was true, and that I had to go back and tell everyone.”
Prue stayed positive, cheered and supported her team as best she could. The Red Eddies tried to regroup without her, but EL couldn’t recover after losing their ball-handler, leader and driving force.
“She was such a great teammate and so loyal to the program,” said Jipson. “In this day and age that’s something you don’t see as much. She was kind of a throwback player in that she really had a lot of loyalty and the program really matters to her.”
Prue will play at Bowdoin next year. She’s already excited about the possibilities. She’s met some of her fellow incoming freshmen already and has gotten a taste of the college level in summer tournaments. Jipson says the best may still be to come from Prue.
“I really believe that her best years of basketball might be ahead of her,” said Jipson. “She’s a kid that if she gets healthy, and she plays with a couple six-footers, I honestly believe she could go to Bowdoin and be an All-American. I think she’s got so much potential.”