Former NBA All-Star Mark Price says daughter Caroline is playing so well in junior tennis that he is considering taking the year off from coaching basketball just to watch her.
Price, who starred at Georgia Tech and played 13 seasons in the NBA, was a shooting consultant with the Hawks the past two seasons. However, Price was not retained when the team changed coaches from Mike Woodson to Larry Drew.
“I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do this fall … I’m still trying to figure that out,” Price said. “I’m still talking to some other [NBA] teams about possibly going to work with them.
“I’m also possibly thinking about taking a year off after the success my daughter has had with tennis, so I can travel with her some. There are a lot of options, so I’m not too stressed out about it.”
Caroline, 17, is one of the hottest names in junior tennis after winning the USTA Girls’ 18 Clay Court Championship last month in Memphis. Price advanced from the No. 13 seed to form an all-metro Atlanta championship match, defeating No. 1 Whitney Kay of Alpharetta.
Winning the event has perks for Price. She earned a wild-card invitation to the main singles draw of the U.S. Open Juniors, starting Sept. 5 in in New York. on Sept. 5. She Price also qualified for a spot in February’s Cellular South Cup, the WTA event in Memphis, where Maria Sharapova will be the defending champion.
“It was one of the first tournaments in a while that I went out and I wanted to have fun, just because I enjoy playing tennis. And it took the pressure off,” Caroline Price said. “For some reason, I had been putting a lot of pressure on myself.
“I was thinking before [Clay Courts] that I began playing tennis because it was fun for me. So why should it be any different now? So I went out there and had fun … and it turned out really well.”
Caroline is one of Mark and wife Laura’s four children. Brittany, 20, is a rising sophomore at Baylor University and works part-time as a secretary in the men’s basketball office. Hudson, 15, is a 6-foot-5 sophomore basketball player who recently transferred from Marist to Wesleyan. Josh, 11, also is a promising basketball talent in hoops. The Prices reside in Duluth.
Caroline loves basketball as well and tried to follow in her father’s footsteps when she was younger.
“It was a little rough on me,” she said. “I was tall and lanky and would get hurt out there against the bigger girls. My dad decided that basketball maybe wasn’t the best for me.”
By the seventh grade, she was traveling nearly year-round for both tennis and volleyball tournaments, along with balancing her schoolwork. It became a little stressful for Price, who was advised by her parents to choose one sport.
“I thought hard about both and tennis was the one sport I could not picture myself not doing,” she said.
The big turning point for Price’s career was sweeping the singles and doubles titles at the 2009 Easter Bowl in the Under-16 division in California. She began to attract attention from numerous colleges, including Georgia Tech, Georgia, USC, Vanderbilt and North Carolina.
At 5-11, the left-handed Price is nearly as tall as her father (6 feet). Her game has flourished as she developed consistency with her booming serve and steady forehand.
“Her first serve has definitely improved,” said Peachtree Ridge High’s Mary Jeremiah, a frequent opponent. “With her height, she is really able to get a lot of pop on the ball. And with that left-handed spin, it’s tough getting it back into the court in the first place, let alone to her backhand.”
Price, who is being home-schooled, says she is close to her father and benefits from his NBA experiences. At the Clay Courts, Price played against Catherine Harrison, a Memphis hometown favorite, in the semifinals.
“I remember hearing stories from my dad about playing on the road in some tough places … the whole crowd would be cheering against him but he used it as motivation to play better,” she said. “When the crowd was cheering for the other player in my match, I took what my dad told me to motivate me and didn’t get frustrated. That [mental approach] helped me a lot.”
Price says she leans on her father a lot for emotional support.
“Whenever I’m struggling with tennis, he always knows exactly what to say,” she said. “Whenever I do well, he knows what to say, too … because he has gone through it too. He is just great to talk with because he understands the situations.”