Taurean Prince and Royce O’Neale bonded as roommates, teammates at Baylor

(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz forward Royce O'Neale (23) holds up a finger after draining a three-pointer during the Utah Jazz versus Denver Nuggets NBA basketball game at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City Tuesday November 28, 2017.

Atlanta • It’s roughly 850 miles from Waco, Texas, to Atlanta, which is a day’s drive if you are committed, or a short flight. That’s how far Taurean Prince’s path from college to the NBA led, after being drafted out of Baylor by the Atlanta Hawks.

For Royce O’Neale, his college teammate and roommate, it was a much longer route — one that led overseas before turning around back toward Utah. But on Monday night, their paths crossed again in Philips Arena. Prince met O’Neale in warmups before the game to congratulate him.

“When you’ve got a guy who can do a lot of things good, you’ll eventually find your way into the NBA,” Prince said. “He does a lot of things that a lot of guys aren’t willing to do.”

Atlanta Hawks forward Taurean Prince (12) looks to pass as he is guarded by San Antonio Spurs forward Rudy Gay during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Nov. 20, 2017, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

That’s how O’Neale scrapped his way onto the Jazz roster and into the rotation: He’s been an efficient offensive player, a better-than-average rebounder at guard and a defensive pest. Prince said he’s always been that, it just took him two years to get noticed.

The duo spent two years together at Baylor, the last of which they spent together in an apartment. O’Neale said they got along because they were both relatively clean, but they did have occasional discord — usually while playing the video game NBA 2K.

“I’m the better 2K player,” O’Neale said. “He tries. I’ll give him Call of Duty and Madden, but I’m better at 2K.”

While they still may bicker over video games, seeing each other on the floor was a nice moment for both. Prince has doubled his points, rebounding and assists since he was the 12th overall pick in 2016. O’Neale made his first four shots of the game — not bad for an undrafted free agent who played two years abroad.

“We haven’t seen each other since summer, so it’s good,” O’Neale said. “Him being on a team with how well he’s doing, I just congratulated him.”

Favors visits family

From his days at South Atlanta High to his years at Georgia Tech, Derrick Favors has deep roots in Georgia. But don’t expect to see him spending too much time visiting old spots when he comes back on trips with the Jazz.

The most important stop for Favors is to visit with his twin daughters, who live in the area.

“I see family — that’s most of all the time I have,” he said. “If I have time afterwards, I’ll see some friends.”

If he does have time, he said one of his favorite stops is the Southern comfort food staple Waffle House. If he could have his druthers, he’d order a waffle, sausage and grits. But that’s not always his choice, given his diet restrictions.

“In the season I can’t eat the way I want to,” he said.

Atlanta is also a home of sorts for Joe Johnson, who played seven years for the Hawks, including six All-Star seasons. Johnson spent a significant amount of time pregame greeting Atlanta staff and arena personnel.


Rodney Hood didn’t play for the second straight game on Monday night, missing the start with a lower left leg contusion.