Prolific Prep, a nationally-ranked basketball academy located in Napa, is taking its show north to Calistoga.
On Jan. 30, the Crew will face Shantou University from China in a game at Calistoga High School. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Cesar Cruz, the head coach for the Calistoga High boys and girls basketball teams, is organizing the event with Prolific Prep founder Jeremy Russotti.
“We have a good relationship,” Cruz said of Russotti. “It’s a mutual thing. We’ve been talking about this for a couple years, but with my busy schedule coaching two teams and my daughter’s team, I’ve just never had to time to fully organize it. But this year we made it happen. It’ll be fun, especially with a bunch of these athletes coming from all over the country and some international guys, too.”
The event will also serve as a fundraiser for the Calistoga basketball program. Cruz will be looking for donations in the coming weeks in hopes of raising enough money to make the event free for everyone.
“If we get enough donations, we’ll make the game free,” Cruz said. “If we don’t, we’ll probably still make it free for kids and $7 for adults. But our goal is to make this game free. The key is we’ve got to get donations. It’s going to help our program. All this money is going back to our program.”
Prolific Prep competes in The Grind Session, a circuit of elite national high school basketball events throughout the winter.
It features a roster full of future Div. I college players and, potentially, a handful of professional players. Many of its alumni are play for Div. I colleges. Two alumni are currently playing in the NBA, Josh Jackson with the Phoenix Suns and Gary Trent Jr. with the Portland Trailblazers.
The team Prolific Prep is playing is no stranger to international games. Shantou University has played in the states for the last several years, mainly in part to its connection to Prolific Prep head coach Billy McKnight, who coached the Shantou team before becoming the head coach at Prolific Prep in 2014.
“It should be a fun game,” McKnight told the Napa Valley Register last week of his high school players going against Shantou’s college-age players. “It should be really cool for people to see a team from a different culture, a different country and their style of play and the passion that they play with. It should be an exciting night.”
The Crew, which is currently 22-4 on the season, has another group of highly ranked prep players this season. Headlining the bunch is 2020 four-star guard Nimari Burnett, who currently has 14 scholarship offers from Div. I schools such as Arizona, USC, Ohio State, Indiana and Nevada.
Zach Harvey is another four-star guard in the class of 2020 who holds Div. I offers, from Gonzaga, Nebraska, Kansas, Oregon and UCLA, among others.
Emanuel Miller, a three-star power forward in the class of 2019, has already committed to play for Virginia Tech next season.
“It’ll be fun,” Cruz said. “I don’t think most of these kids have watched high school kids that are actually 17 and 18 that are 6-foot-10, 6-foot-11, and move as quick as point guards.”
The Calistoga players are aware of the event, but Cruz doesn’t think they’ll grasp how good the incoming players are until they see them in person.
“They’ll get to meet the kids and go in the locker room,” he said. “It’s going to be really cool.”
“I’m really looking forward to it,” he added. “We have to do a lot of planning for this. I took responsibility with Jeremy to get this going and to make sure that this is a great event and a great game. Hopefully we can make a great event and hopefully we can make it into an every-year thing.
“I really believe it’s going to be a great event for the community and for our program.”