Updated: Jun 11, 2022
After taking a hiatus due to COVID last year, the 2021 Tarkanian Classic returned with 175+ teams spread across multiple gyms in Las Vegas, NV over the span of a week. Featuring elite basketball competition in prep and HS divisions, the must-see annual holiday high school tournament provided evaluators an opportunity to watch the prestigious NBA Academies in Africa and Latin America in addition to programs from around the U.S., Canada, and even Germany.
Pro Insight was on hand to cover the event and caught up with Zion Cruz of Donda Academy (CA) and PSA Cardinals (NY). Cruz is a member of Kanye West’s Donda Academy, which is stacked with talent that includes five-stars Robert Dillingham, J.J. Taylor, and Jahki Howard as well as several other talented prospects. The 6’4” guard helped his squad to a 2-0 record at the Tarkanian Classic, showcasing a smooth off-the-dribble game and prowess at the mid-range.
As part of the Pro Insight Q&A series, Cruz discussed the basketball culture in New Jersey, what attracted him to Donda Academy, his recruitment update, decision timeline, and more.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 2022 prospect Zion Cruz, from Trenton, New Jersey:
Pro Insight: Talk a bit about your background. How did you get to where you are today?
Zion Cruz: Just putting in a lot of work. My dad pushing me to be the best and the days that I didn't wanna do it, I did it, so that's why I'm here where I'm at right now.
PI: Did your dad also play basketball?
ZC: Yeah, he played. He played a little bit, but he just wanted to see me succeed, so he just pushed that on me because he didn't get to do what I'm doing.
PI: Does anyone else play sports or basketball in your family?
ZC: Not really, so it's just kind of like a God gift.
PI: Did you play any other sports growing up?
ZC: Yeah, I play football. I was a real football [player]. I was actually better at football than basketball, then out of nowhere I just started working at basketball.
PI: What made you fall in love with basketball over football?
ZC: Football was just way too physical (laughs). It just got way too physical and I was just like “alright, nah, this is not for me.”
PI: Which position did you play football?
ZC: Wide receiver. I played a little bit of running back. I played a little bit of corner, kind of like everything.
PI: For those that aren’t familiar with your game, what are your greatest strengths and play style?
ZC: Smooth. [I] get to anywhere I want at any time. A leader.
PI: Who do you model your game after and try to study on film?
ZC: D Book. Russell Westbrook.
PI: What do you feel you still need to improve on the most? What have you been working on?
ZC: Reads. Different types of reads out of different types of situations.
PI: How would you compare and contrast New Jersey and California in terms of basketball? Who is better?
ZC: (Laughs) Jersey absolutely, because I'm from Jersey. I just think Jersey has more dogs like we just take it way more seriously I feel like.
PI: I can see that. You gotta be physical and get after it to play in New York/New Jersey.
ZC: Yessir, definitely. Definitely gotta be physical in Jersey. Yessir.
PI: What attracted you to Donda Academy?
ZC: The facility, like the gym…we’re in there 24/7 like day-in day-out so that's what I really needed so to take my game to the next level and prepare for college.
PI: What’s the latest on your recruitment?
ZC: I've been talking to Georgia. We’ve been having a real good conversation with Coach Crean so looking to wrap it up by the end of December so everything is going [well].
PI: Who are you hearing from the most lately besides Georgia?
ZC: Just Georgia.
PI: You have one hashtag to describe yourself. What is it?
ZC: One hashtag… (looks over at one of his coaches) what you think, Dre?
Coach Dre: #him
PI: Who are your favorite music artists?
ZC: My friends back home, so EBK ROME and Trey Twizz.
PI: Name four words that best describe you.
ZC: Goofy (laughs). I’m just goofy. I'm just like a funny, hype person [with] great energy.
PI: At the end of the day, what do you hope to be remembered for?
ZC: I just want to be a great person and a great player and a role model.