Samantha Prahalis’ life goals always involved the next step of her basketball career.
When she starred for Commack, she wanted to earn a college scholarship. When she led Ohio State to four straight NCAA Tournaments from 2009 to 2012, she had a professional contract in her sights. And so on.
Prahalis never thought about coaching because she was so focused on playing. Now, at 27, one of Long Island’s most accomplished female athletes thinks she is ready to switch paths.
“I’m not 100 percent, but I’m like 95 percent sure that I’m retired,” said Prahalis, who played 41 games in the WNBA from 2012 to 2014 and has played exclusively overseas since. “I want to start my own brand, training and events and coaching.”
Prahalis, a two-time Newsday Player of the Year and three-time All-Long Island first teamer, holds the Big Ten’s career record with 901 assists. The Phoenix Mercury selected her with the sixth overall pick in 2012.
Prahalis, who described herself as a “family person” who does not “really enjoy” living overseas, benefited from a fortuitous experience last fall. At the time, learning that her contract with a team in Greece fell through could have seemed like a setback.
“It was a blessing in disguise,” Prahalis said.
On a whim, the 5-7 point guard decided to contact Denis Conroy, the Commack coach who took over during her sophomore season. She wanted to stay fresh as she awaited another professional opportunity, so she offered her assistance to Conroy and the Cougars.
From September to late December, she attended workouts and practices. Conroy said the “fierce” and “competitive” player was a patient and encouraging coach with a knack for relating to the teenage girls.
“In the time that she was with us she developed a close rapport with the kids on the team,” Conroy said. “She listens. She encourages. They obviously have a great deal of respect for what she can do with a basketball in her hands.”
By the time Prahalis left for Hungary shortly before the new year, coaching had become an appealing future job. Commack’s players reinforced that sentiment, texting Prahalis updates on their progress during her season with DVTK.
Sophomore Katie Kelly, for instance, spent hours working on her jumper with Prahalis. After her 18-point breakout, fueled by her three-point shooting, helped Commack to a quarterfinal win over Kings Park, Kelly credited Prahalis for improving her touch.
“She texted me and said she gave me a shoutout, which was so cute,” Prahalis said. “That stuff is really cool. I’m not big-timing anybody. That stuff means a lot to me.”
Prahalis already has her coaching plans in motion after returning from Hungary in mid-April. In addition to coaching a 5th grade Exodus AAU team, she is running a co-ed 3-on-3 tournament May 5 at Commack Middle School. The event for 10- to 15-year-olds will run from 6-9 p.m., and cost for participation is $25.
Prahalis said she will spend the evening monitoring the event, offering encouragement and guidance. Anyone interested in registering can email her at email@example.com or call (614) 383-8698.
“I just wanted it to be a night where people come out and play, have fun,” she said. “It’s not really too deep. I just wanted to have fun. I’m back finally and I just want to reconnect with the kids and my community.”
From here, her career path is not 100 percent set. But will she devote this summer to working out for another contract?
“At this point, I don’t think so,” Prahalis said. “When I helped coach Commack earlier in the year, I was shocked how much I liked it. Never in my life did I think that I would like coaching or doing little events, training. I never thought that would be my path ever.”