Emanuel County Institute’s Prencis Harden wrapped up a phenomenal senior campaign a few weeks ago, and she topped it off with some pretty special awards last week. An announcement from sandysspiel.com this past Sunday, March 21 named her Player of the Year, Best Scorer, and Best Passer for GHSA Class A girls basketball.
The Chronicle reached out to Harden Sunday afternoon for comment. However, due to playing in a tournament in Jacksonville, Florida, at the time, she was unavailable. South Georgia’s No. 1 ranked player returned the inquiry Wednesday, March 24, instead and gave a short interview.
Harden first began playing basketball in the fifth grade. Since then, she has become an exceptional all-around player and especially formidable guard, much to the credit of her mother, coaches, and the many opportunities she has been given to play with various teams.
“My mom, Melissia Carlyle, she has scarified so much for me to play travel ball to get the exposure I needed and to get me the best training out there,” Harden said. “I started playing for ECI when I was in the sixth grade. I’ve played with South Georgia Storm, a team out of Statesboro, from the time I was in seventh grade until last year when I was a junior. I’m currently playing with Tier1, a team out of Savannah, until I leave for college.”
On the local level, she says Jonquin McKinney, also known as “Coach Q,” has been instrumental in her skills development. She has worked with his basketball organization, ATAP, since she was in the sixth grade.
The Chronicle looked to McKinney for his take on Harden as a player. Opening his description, he alluded to a Michael Jordan’s quote: “You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them.”
“She believed she could score 50,” McKinney continued. “She believed she could win the region. She believed she could play Division I!. She believed she could be Player of the Year. She believed, and she did it!”
Harden, a Swainsboro native who best describes herself as a “playmaker,” looks back at her last year playing for the Red and Black with pride.
“I would say my senior season was great. I achieved many goals, such as making it to the playoffs, winning a region title, and advancing to the Elite 8, something our school hasn’t done in a very long time.”
The awards, the Lady Dawg admits, are just the “icing on the cake.” On top of putting in numerous hours over the summer, she didn’t get to play the first half of the season due to being a virtual student, causing her to have to work harder for the remainder of the athletic year.
Still—she didn’t win just Player of the Year. Harden’s other two awards—Best Passer and Best Scorer—are every bit as important because those achievements combine to speak to the nature of her versatility, selflessness, and dedication to team above self. On that note, Harden said, “My mentality as a teammate is just to keep everyone involved. I try to make sure everyone on the team is confident when the ball is in their hands and not in mine.”
Harden will graduate from Emanuel County Institute on May 21. Thereafter, she will move north of Atlanta to continue her academic and athletic careers as a Kennesaw State Owl. She inked with KSU on November 11, 2020 as part of a three-signee class, including Amaris Baker from Cardinal O’Hara High School in Philadelphia and Kyha Hough from The Mary Louis Academy in Bronx, New York. In a press release on KSU’s website the day of the signing, head coach Khadija Head said of Harden, “Prencis exemplifies the sheer athleticism, heart and hustle we associate with Georgia high school student-athletes. Her ability to single handily transform the outcome of a game through her high-volume scoring mentality is exhilarating.”
In her time as an ECI Lady Bulldog, Harden surpassed the 1,000 point mark. She entered her senior year as a preseason Class A all-state selection. She also earned Georgia Coaches Association (GACA) all-state Class A South honors after the 2019-2020 season and was a GHSA Class A Public all-state first-team selection that same year. She earned MVP honors and was named to the first all-region team as a sophomore, an honor which she repeated from her freshman year. Harden completed her high school career with a program-high average of 29.7 points and 11.7 rebounds per game.