Prolific Prep showed flashes of why it’s a national championship contender as the Crew opened its season 3-0 this past weekend in the Tip-Off Classic at Napa Valley College.
Although these matchups function more as tune-up games than legitimate competition, it is telling that the No. 20 team in the nation, according to www.prepcircuit.com, made high-level basketball look effortless as Prolific Prep rolled through ASI Prep Academy 105-55 on Friday, Seattle Prep 106-63 on Saturday, and Fresno International Prep 114-54 on Sunday.
“We’re seeing some early signs of this being a really special team and I think that’s the big take-away from me this weekend,” head coach Billy McKnight said after the tournament’s conclusion. “You never really know what you’re going to get until you play against somebody else.”
Headlined by returning junior guard Nimari Burnett, Prolific Prep is in a great position despite losing McDonald’s All-American Jordan Brown to graduation.
Three big, versatile transfer players from Victory Rock Prep in Sarasota, Florida round out the Crew’s starting five and may end up as true difference makers for a deep team looking to knock off perennial powerhouses such as No. 1 Montverde Academy and No. 2 Oak Hill Prep.
Ibrahima Diallo, at 6-foot-11, is the biggest of the three. Diallo is from Saly, Senegal.
“The thing I can help with and lead my team on first of all is defense,” Diallo said. “Run the floor, rebound every time and just keep getting better to help this team with a championship.”
Diallo is a factor offensively as well.
Against Fresno International Prep, he showed a few flashes of offensive dominance with three straight buckets on a nasty slam, a savvy drop-step spin move that led to a finger-roll lay-up in the post, and a wide-open breakaway jam after he got ahead of every defender in transition.
Fellow Victory Rock transfer Kuany Kuany, who is 6-foot-9 and from Australia, operates as the Crew’s point-forward.
“I’m able to create plays and facilitate the whole time on offense,” Kuany said. “If they are pressuring full-court, I’m able to bring the ball up and relieve pressure off our guards, so I think that’s a big advantage for our team.”
Mawot Mag is a 6-7 junior wing transfer.
“This is a better opportunity over here,” Mag said of his transfer. “It’s a great organization. We can be the No. 1 team in the country.”
“My friend, Mawot, had transferred and he’s like my best friend and we’ve been playing together for a couple of years,” Kuany added. “So I made the move and we’ve meshed with the team really well because we bring a lot of energy and we are very versatile.”
When asked about how they like living in the Napa Valley as compared to their previous home in Sarasota, all three had similar answers.
“It’s very different,” Mag said. “Over here, it’s a nice environment. It’s nice and quiet.”
“Napa is very quiet, so it is easy for you to put your work in and you can never get distracted,” Kuany added.
“Oh, Napa Valley?” Diallo grinned. “Napa Valley is cool. I see a huge difference because (Sarasota) is big and Napa is not at all, but I really like it.
“You can practice and chill and that’s what I need for my senior year.”
Zach Harvey, a guard from Kansas City, Kansas, also starts for Prolific Prep.
Prolific Prep and Golden State Prep will meet in a game on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Napa Valley College.
Golden State Prep is a post grad team.
Kids and students will get into the game for free. It’s “Kids and Student’s Day.”
Charles Woodson Wines is a sponsor of the Prolific Prep-Golden State Prep game.
Tasting Room 24, located at 902 D Enterprise Way, Napa, will host a late-night fundraiser on Saturday from 8-10 p.m. for the public, age 21 and over, and will feature Charles Woodson Wines.
Prolific Prep and Golden State Prep also have games on Friday and Saturday at NVC.
On Friday, it’s Golden State Prep against Elite Prep at 5 p.m. and Prolific Prep against Elite Prep at 7 p.m.
In other games on Saturday, it’s Ascending Life Christian against Elite Prep at 2 p.m. and Fresno International against Elite Prep at 4 p.m.
In Sunday’s games, it’s Ascending Life Christian against Fresno International at 10 a.m., Golden State Prep against Elite Prep at 12 p.m., and Prolific Prep against Elite Prep at 2 p.m.