Besides Elijah Fisher and Romad Dean, Coach Ro Russell has built a talent-laden roster at Crestwood Prep with the addition of Zaiden Cross this past year. Coming from an athletic family with a father who played basketball and a mother who ran track, Cross stands at 6’7“ and 188 pounds. In the 2019-20 season with Royal Crown Academy, he was the youngest player in the National Preparatory Association (NPA) league to be named an all-star, registering averages of 21.2 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Cross is a scoring guard with elite off-the-dribble shooting prowess and self-creation ability.
Although basketball in Canada has been put on pause during the pandemic, Cross and his Grassroots Elite Canada squad have had the chance to continue to get national exposure at premier events in the U.S. In the current AAU season, Cross is grateful for the opportunity to be able to showcase his skills in front of coaches and talent evaluators despite the challenges of getting recruited during COVID-19.
As part of the Pro Insight Q&A series, Cross discusses how he landed at Crestwood Prep, his development as an on-court leader, his recruitment update, and more.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 2022 prospect Zaiden Cross, from Toronto, Canada:
Pro Insight: Tell us a bit about your background.
Zaiden Cross: I'm Zaiden Cross. I’m from Toronto, Canada. I'm in the class of 2022. I'm a shooting guard and I go to Crestwood Prep and play for Grassroots Elite Canada.
PI: Prior to Crestwood Prep, where were you playing?
ZC: I was at a Royal Crown Academy last year. It was a school in Scarborough. It was a UPLAY school.
PI: What other sports did you play growing up?
ZC: I played a lot of sports actually. I ran track. I played volleyball, badminton, ultimate frisbee. Like any other sport, I played.
PI: Do you have any siblings?
ZC: I have two sisters - an older one and a younger one so I'm the middle child.
PI: Did sports run in your family?
ZC: Yeah, my dad was a pretty good basketball player back in the day. My mom ran track and that's how I got my, you know, athletic genetics, I guess.
PI: What’s the story behind how you ended up with Crestwood Prep?
ZC: Coach Ro has been trying to get me into Crestwood from grade nine. It’s just that I didn't apply for the school at that time. So me and Coach Ro spoke about it for me coming into Crestwood next year, with this past year at Royal Crown. And then next year will be, you know, taking me in for these next two years, that will be at Crestwood. Coach Ro did his thing. He spoke to the principal and the headmaster about me and they accepted me.
PI: You balled out at the Flyin’ To The Hoop Top Gun Showcase last month, how did you feel out there?
ZC: Um, it took me a while to get back because you know, the whole quarantine, no games being played in Canada. So I'm not gonna lie, at first it was kind of a struggle, but then I adapted to it and...in these games, I did my thing.
PI: So high school is done and you guys are officially in the AAU season?
ZC: Yeah. High school is done. Now we are in AAU. We just came back from Atlanta, like not so long ago. And we went to the Tip-Off Classic and we finished 2-2.
PI: What’s it like playing with Elijah Fisher?
ZC: It’s cool playing with Elijah. One thing I like about Elijah is that he is aggressive on the court and I feel like I can adapt to the aggressiveness and elevate my game.
PI: What are some of your biggest interests outside of basketball?
ZC: I play a lot of video games and I play a lot of board games with my family. So I think those are the two things that interest me outside of basketball.
PI: What video games are you currently playing?
ZC: My go-to is 2K.
PI: What apps are you on the most?
ZC: I'm on Instagram, Snapchat and Tik Tok.
PI: Who are your favorite music artists?
ZC: Meek Mill. Lil Durk. I would say probably Drake for my top-three right now. I am patiently waiting for his album [Certified Lover Boy].
PI: For those who aren’t as familiar, describe your game.
ZC: I'll have to say I'm a combo guard. I can score effectively. You know, I can pass the ball. I can rebound. The only thing I would say I got to work on is my defense and being more of a leader on the court, but I would like to say, yeah, I'm a combo guard.
PI: Who do you model your game after and study on film?
ZC: I would say Kevin Durant because he makes the game so easy, especially with scoring. So I try my hardest to model my game after his because he makes sure that you don't need that many dribbles to score. So I want to make it as easy as he does.
PI: Who has been the toughest individual matchup you’ve ever faced?
ZC: This year, I would probably say Rob Dillingham. He played alright against us, but he's tough.
PI: What is your recruitment update?
ZC: I have one offer so far and a lot of interests - I got the offer from Cincinnati. Then there's more interest coming in, so far. I heard from Loyola Chicago the other day.
PI: What have been some of the challenges of being recruited during COVID?
ZC: Challenges...you know, when we're in the States, we just gotta, like, I gotta play the hardest, because this is my only chance and that I will not play a game in Canada and you can’t get to go in Canada. So whenever you fly over across the border, I’ve got to stand out and show these scouts that I'm one of those players that can hoop.
PI: What are your short term goals you have for yourself as a player and as a person?
ZC: As a player, I want to be a better on-court leader and lead my teammates more. And like I said earlier, defend more, just do everything on the court to help my team win. And then as a person, I just want to grow and grow mentally and physically. And make sure I'm alright, my family is alright, and the people around me are doing well.
PI: Any plans to play for the Canadian junior men’s national team this summer?
ZC: Yes. I plan on playing for that team this summer. If I do play for the team, it's going to be a fun trip and I'm going to like the experience a lot.
PI: How would you define the word ‘success?’
ZC: Success is waking up every morning and dedicating yourself to working on your craft. You know, making sure your body’s right. And just taking in something that people say to you, because you know, could help you later on in life.
PI: At the end of the day, what do you want to be remembered for?
ZC: I want to be remembered for a guy that changed the community and to come back. I want to come back and give back to where I'm from, change the community and, you know, make sure everyone's all right, and be one of the best basketball players to ever play.
Watch the full interview with Zaiden, here