Josh Jackson down to final five, but immediate goal is to build up Prolific Prep

Josh Jackson down to final five, but immediate goal is to build up Prolific Prep

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Josh Jackson down to final five, but immediate goal is to build up Prolific Prep

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DRAFFENVILLE, Ky. — Attention during the Marshall County Hoopfest was on Prolific Prep’s Josh Jackson, and that’s not unusual. Jackson is regarded as arguably the top senior prospect in the country.

But a day after Jackson went off for 34 points, 19 rebounds and eight assists against Michigan State signee Miles Bridges and No. 4 Huntington Prep (W.Va.) in an 83-77 double-overtime victory, his freshman point guard stole the show.

Pierre Crockrell, at 5-11, became a fan favorite at Hoopfest, drilling all six of his three-point attempts for 20 points and dishing out four assists. It was the coming-out party for Crockrell, who led Prolific Prep (Napa, Calif) to a 70-53 victory Saturday over Advanced Prep International (Dallas). API was ranked No. 4 in the Preseason Super 25.

An ambitious program that burst onto the scene last season, Prolific Prep is looking to assert itself as one of the top programs in the nation. The team is 10-1 and has four wins over ranked opponents on its resume.

“It was a great weekend. We came out here on a mission to win both games and we really felt coming in we were playing great,” said program founder Jeremy Russotti.  “The program is at a point where it was time to take a next step into the top echelon of the nation. We actually asked for these two teams from the program director, we got it, and we expected to win.”

Prolific Prep guard Josh Jackson (11) works against Advanced Prep guard Terrance Ferguson (5) (Photo: Christopher Hanewinckel USA TODAY Sports)

Prolific Prep guard Josh Jackson (11) works against Advanced Prep guard Terrance Ferguson (5) (Photo: Christopher Hanewinckel USA TODAY Sports)

The team is led by Jackson, who as a junior averaged 28 points, 15 rebounds and six assists per game. He showcased that wide variety of skills Friday against Huntington Prep, but Saturday he took a backseat to Crockrell, with Connecticut commit Vance Jackson, Utah commit Devon Daniels and Amadou Sow also making highlight reel plays.

“Sometimes I’m scoring, sometimes I’m not, but one thing about me…every time I step on the court I’m trying to win,” said Jackson, who finished with seven rebounds and six assists on Saturday despite the lower-than-normal scoring output. “Whether that’s scoring, rebounding or playing defense, it comes in varieties.”

Still uncommitted, Jackson is deciding between Kansas, Arizona, Michigan State, UNLV and UCLA.

He may be a Michigan native who holds the Spartans dear, but he’s in no hurry to make a decision on where he wants to continue his career. He noted that Bridges has been urging him to go to Michigan State, which would take the top recruiting class that Tom Izzo has ever signed to a level beyond.

“I wish I could just make this decision tomorrow, but I’m still not sure where I want to go and I know this is one of the most important decisions I ever make in my life, so I want to make sure I don’t have any regrets about it,” he said.

Players like Harry Giles or Jayson Tatum are often brought up, but to Russotti, there’s no question who is the best player in the country.

“Whoever thinks they are, come to the gym. We’ll schedule it tomorrow. We’ll go mano-a-mano, team against team, and Josh Jackson will always come out on top,” Russotti said. “I have full confidence in him and I’d hate to play against that kid.”

Playing against Advanced Prep’s Trevon Duvall, regarded as the top point guard prospect in the 2017 class, Crockrell looked like the best floor general on the court Saturday. He had the hot hand early, and his five first-half 3-pointers lifted Prolific Prep to an eight-point halftime lead that would only grow as the game went on.

Crockrell said the success the team has been having this year is a mixture of the talent on the team as well as its head coach — Billy McKnight.

“Our players are buying in to our coaching strategy. We have a great coach, Josh Jackson of course, and we’re all just doing our part,” said Crockrell.

Prolific Prep has Division I prospects across the board, but Crockrell could be the next star on the team and one that will soon have the attention of college coaches nationwide, said Russotti.

“I’ve been saying all year he’s the best point guard in the nation in his class and maybe one of the top five in the country regardless of class,” he said. “I stuck with him. He was my guy, even though he is a freshman. I have so much confidence in him. He has been playing like this all year, he just came up extra big tonight.”

The schedule Russotti built for Prolific Prep will be challenging throughout the season. It’s scheduled to play Arlington Country Day, Quality Education, La Lumiere and Word of God, among others.

For Jackson, while colleges await his declaration, it’s all about the team.

“(My goals are) to win as many games as possible,” he said, “and get better as we do it.”

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