A little more than a dozen kids, ranging from preteens to college freshmen, sat around the steps to the entrance of Franco Fitness in Napa under the hot sun last Thursday afternoon.
They were waiting to get inside to start the strength and conditioning portion of their day, the second of three workouts they’d be doing as members of the new and improved Prolific Prep Summer Academy.
The campers had arrived on time for the 12:45 p.m. workout but had to wait until their contact at the gym arrived with the key to let them in.
Ten minutes quickly passed, so Jon McCall, head strength and conditioning coach for Prolific Prep, sprung to action. He got out training equipment from his car and doled out workouts to the campers. It wasn’t long before the entire ensemble was either doing defensive slides in the parking lot or step-ups on the stairs on which they were just sitting.
“With me, I started in a garage,” said McCall, who is entering his second summer involved with the elite prep basketball academy. “So I love the challenge of making things work. That kind of created my style of training and how I look at things. I didn’t want to depend on fancy equipment as much, I do appreciate it, but I didn’t want to depend on it for reasons like this.”
It wasn’t a typical workout for the Summer Academy, which is taking its first steps as a more organized summer program, but it was anything but a wasted afternoon. The program is still rounding into shape in its first official summer and organizers are hoping it grows to offer world class basketball training to not only those from around the area, but also around the world.
Last summer, McCall ran workouts throughout the summer for players from the Crew with several local kids jumping in now and then. It was nothing like what they have now.
This summer, the program, which started officially on June 10, runs five days a week until Aug. 16. It features three workouts a day, starting with skill work in the morning, strength work in the afternoon and shooting work and scrimmages in the evening, at least for those who want the full package.
Boarding options are even available for those athletes not from the area, of which there were several in attendance on Thursday.
“We have a guy from Belgium, we have another kid from Hawaii, from Alaska, then some other local guys and guys from L.A. and throughout this area,” said recently hired Prolific Prep assistant coach Preston Paulson. “So it ranges from everywhere. It’s crazy.”
Paulson is relatively new to the area but brings with him a background flush with experience in the pro and college game. He was on the coaching staff of the Minnesota State Mankato men’s basketball team before working for the Minnesota Timberwolves and Miami Heat after graduating. He arrived in Napa earlier in June to be an assistant coach for Golden State Prep, the postgrad team affiliated with Prolific Prep, and to help run the summer academy.
Paulson also has experience with personal basketball training with a wide range of ages and skill levels, and spent time with the Brooklyn Park Youth Program as an organizer and event coordinator – all experience that helps him feel right at home with the summer program.
“(Campers) should expect a high level of training, whether that’s with the coaches or with strength and conditioning,” Paulson said. “Just expect to work, because you’re going to get a coaching staff that’s going to commit 100 percent to them.”
That commitment was on full display Thursday as McCall made something out of nothing.
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He broke up the dozen or so campers in attendance into different groups based on their age and skill level, and cobbled together impromptu workouts sans weights or expensive equipment. Some kids did dips on the stairs while others did battle rope workouts and lunges with weighted chains.
“We’re out in the parking lot,” McCall yelled as the workouts progressed around him, “but we got no excuses.”
While even in an unusual setting, this serious approach to the game is not always what you might find at a summer basketball camp, where the focus tends to be more about having fun rather than finely honing skills. That’s not to say fun is scarce at Prolific Prep’s Summer Academy. Rather, it comes from the process of improving one’s game.
“You go to different camps and it’s more, like, playful,” said Jessica Clark, whose son, Jamir Collins, had been attending the camp that week. “But with this, everyone has the same goal, getting better.”
Hailing from Suisun City, Clark has taken Collins, 13, to a number of basketball summer camps in the area but swears this one is the best she’s seen yet.
“It’s exceeded what I thought it was going to be like, just because he’s done a lot of camps before,” Clark said. “So I’ve seen a lot of different camps, but this definitely exceeded what I was expecting.
“It sets it apart from anything else because they’re so hands-on and you can tell that the coaches really care about each person. It’s incomparable.”
That’s exactly what Prolific Prep is aiming to build with this offseason program, although maybe with fewer parking lot workouts.
Thursday’s workout went the entire hour duration in the baking sun, but that didn’t seem to dampen any spirits.
“When’s the next workout?” Collins asked McCall as he and his mom headed to the car.
“That’s exactly what I want to hear,” he said.
The summer academy is still taking sign-ups. For more information, email email@example.com or call 707-849-1212.