Prolific Prep, the nationally-ranked high school basketball academy in Napa, will have a new head coach for its highly-anticipated 2019-20 season.
Joey Fuca will take over as head coach and replace Billy McKnight, who recently left to take a job at a youth basketball training academy in Oregon.
Fuca, 30, arrives in Napa after spending the last several years coaching with the Lakeshow, a Bay Area based AAU program. A graduate of San Ramon Valley High School in Danville, Fuca won a North Coast Section Division II championship with the Wolves in 2005 and graduated as an all-league player in 2007.
He went on to play at The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, an NAIA program, and graduated with a communications degree in 2011. He then played professionally in Germany for two seasons before returning to the states to join Eric Musselman’s staff at the University of Reno as a graduate assistant, a position he held until 2015.
McKnight was with Prolific Prep since its inception in 2014 and had served as head coach since 2015. He left the Napa program to take a position at the United States Basketball Academy near Blue River, Oregon, about an hour east of Eugene. According to its website, the academy is “the official Chinese national training facility for select youth.”
McKnight coached in China earlier in his career and spent several years at the pro and college levels.
According to a news story by the regional television station KEZI published in late May, USBA houses 50 kids from China ranging in age from 12 to 16. The academy houses them, teaches them English and runs an intensive basketball training program that aims to develop the next great generation of Chinese basketball players. It’s also funded by the Chinese government, KEZI reported.
The move there from Napa, McKnight said in a phone call on Monday, came about for several reasons. He recently had his first child, so he was looking for more financial security. He also wanted to get involved with a program he considers to have a lot of “upside,” a place that he feels he can help develop like he did with Prolific Prep in Napa.
“It’s tough to leave that situation, but sometimes you’ve got to make difficult choices,” he said, “especially when I just had my first kid a little over three months ago. So it just seemed like the right move to do at this point in time, but it’s definitely a mixed emotion type thing.”
Under McKnight, The Crew went from a completely new program to a national powerhouse. Heading into their sixth season in existence, they boast numerous alumni who have gone on to play NCAA Division I college basketball and several who are now in the NBA.
Prolific Prep went 29-7 last year and advanced all the way to the semifinals of the Grind Session National Championship tournament. The Crew finished ranked as the No. 65 high school team in the country last season, according to MaxPreps, but are poised for bigger and better things this upcoming winter.
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They have not officially announced their full roster for the 2019-20 season yet. But in March they did land five-star recruit Jalen Green, a consensus top-five player in the country in the class of 2020, according to numerous recruiting sites. He spent his first three seasons of high school basketball starring at San Joaquin Memorial in Fresno before deciding to transfer to Napa to play alongside other top prospects such as Nimari Burnett, another five-star recruit.
Both Burnett and Green are ranked as top 25 recruits in their class, per 247sports.com, and should create one of the most talented tandems to take the court together in the country next season.
MaxPreps ranked The Crew as the No. 5 team in the country in their Way-Too-Early Top 25 rankings back in May.
“That team, I’m telling you, this year is going to be absolutely loaded,” McKnight said. “It’s an exciting time for the Prolific Prep program and it’s exciting, I’m sure, for the community to go out and watch that level of basketball. I’m expecting big things from them going forward.”
With as much potential as they’ve ever had, McKnight said leaving Prolific Prep at this point in time was “difficult” but that it was the best move for him and his family.
“It’s not easy doing what we’re doing down there,” he said. “Between (co-founders) Philippe (Doherty), Jeremy (Russotti) and myself, and David Goodrich, we’ve put in a ton of time and a ton of effort to get it to the point it’s at now and I think it’s at a great spot to do well going forward.”
McKnight said that his departure does not come as a surprise to members of the program. He said he communicated his exit with returning players and incoming recruits.
His move north is actually a return to familiar territory. He was a graduate assistant for the men’s basketball team at the University of Oregon in the early 2000s, when Ernie Kent patrolled the sidelines and Luke Jackson and Aaron Brooks starred for the Ducks.
“Even though I was born in the Bay Area, the two places I’ve spent the most time in my life are down there and up here,” McKnight said.
He added that he’s been in communication with the organizers of USBA for “a few years,” but said his leaving Napa only became a real possibility this summer.
“They’ve always expressed interest in getting me back up here again,” he said. “The timing just worked out so that it coincided well with my point in time where I had to make a move financially. That was a big piece of it. But then also I think that we built that thing down there, which has been incredible, but now it’s another challenge to do the same sort of thing up here.”