There are so many things that Nimari Burnett does so well as the point guard for the Prolific Prep Academy basketball team in Napa.
Prolific Prep's Nimari Burnett takes a running shot against Aspire Academy of Kentucky during the Crush in the Valley showcase at American Canyon High School on Jan. 27.
But it’s not Burnett’s ball handling, scoring or passing that impresses his teammate, Jordan Brown, the most.
It’s Burnett’s maturity and his leadership that stands out to Brown, a forward/center for the Crew, who was named to the West team roster for the 2018 McDonald’s All American Games last month.
“Nimari is a hell of a player. He’s a young kid, but he so mature,” Brown said at a practice last week at Grace Church of Napa Valley.
“If I didn’t know him personally, I would have sworn he was a senior, just from watching him play. He’s under control.”
Burnett is a 16-year-old sophomore, and after transferring from Morgan Park High School in Chicago, is adjusting well to his new surroundings. He is on a new team, which plays a national tournament schedule, and along with his teammates attends school at Napa Christian Campus of Education. It’s a Seventh-day Adventist school on Pine Street.
“He just plays like a leader,” said Brown.
“He does it all, really. He’s got a lot of confidence. He’s an all-around player.”
Burnett is averaging 16.6 points, 6.1 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game for Prolific Prep (19-6 overall), which won both of its games – 71-51 over Aspire Academy of Kentucky and 104-76 over Hillcrest Prep of Phoenix – at the Crush in the Valley at American Canyon High School last month.
“I think coming here helped him,” said Brown. “He lets the offense come to him. He knows his limits. He shoots the ball pretty far out. He shoots the ball real well. People are going to respect his shot.
“He’s a good passer, too. He uses that so he can get others involved.”
Prolific Prep's Nimari Burnett goes up for a dunk against Hillcrest Academy during the Crush in the Valley showcase at American Canyon High School on Jan. 28.
Rick Manahan Photography
Burnett (6-foot-3, 180 pounds) left Morgan Park after his freshman year to transfer to Prolific Prep, which plays in The Grind Session, a circuit of elite national high school basketball events throughout the winter. Morgan Park (26-6 overall) ended the 2016-17 season on a seven-game winning streak and beat Fenwick (Oak Park, Ill.) in the Illinois High School Association Class 3A State Championships, 69-67, in overtime as Burnett scored 20 points in the finals.
His dad, Brian Burnett, has had a lot to do with Nimari’s growth and development.
“I’ve spent numerous hours with him in the gym. I’ve always had instincts,” Nimari said.
Nimari is from Richton Park, Ill. He makes his home in Fairfield with his mom, Nikki, and dad.
“We knew it was going to be an adjustment,” he said. “My teammates are becoming my family, my brothers. I’m happy to be a part of this program now.
“I’m excited, just to be able to play for Prolific Prep. They have helped me so much. I feel very comfortable.”
Burnett starred for Prolific Prep at the Crush in the Valley, erupting for 32 points in the game against Hillcrest Prep and scoring 19 points against Aspire Academy.
“It was two games that I really wanted for a long time,” he said. “The competition and the people I was going against – it was two games that I really wanted. I was locked in from the get go.”
Burnett returned to Prolific Prep after missing five weeks due to a hairline fracture of a bone in his left hand. The injury occurred during a game against Sunrise Christian earlier in the season.
“We’re a totally different team when Nimari can play,” said coach Billy McKnight. “He’s our best 3-point shooter. He controls the game. He plays at a great pace. We’re a completely different team when we’ve got him on the floor. We love having him back.”
Burnett is a standout at both ends of the floor. He’s one of the top sophomores in the country, said McKnight.
“He does pretty much everything well,” said McKnight. “He is one of the top sophomore shooters in the country, one of the best shooters in the country. He passes the ball great. He plays at a nice, controlled pace. He’s a very, very good defender.”
“He’s just an extremely intelligent kid. He’s got the whole package. He sees passes that a lot of guys won’t see. He anticipates those passes. The passes are on time. He handles it great.”
“As he gets older and his body matures even more, it’s just going to be really a joy to watch him develop.”
During the time away from the floor as he recovered from the injury, Burnett looked at a lot of film, using it as a learning tool to break down his game and see where he needs to improve.
“I’ve been getting better every single day in the gym,” he said. “It’s just playing hard. I just like my ability to lead, help my teammates be in the right positions, feeding them, getting them touches, helping them.
“With me being at a young age, it’s big a step for me to be a leader. I just want to help my team anyway possible.”
* Prolific Prep continues its season Feb. 9-10 at the Wizard Crystal Ball Showcase. The Grind Session game is hosted by Aspire Academy in Louisville, Kentucky.
* Jordan Brown was scheduled to visit Cal on an official weekend recruiting trip.
He has already had visits to St. John’s and UCLA.