Prophet Kates, Head Coach of Newark Arts High, Basketball Trainer and Player Manager | Hoop Story #073

Prophet Kates, Head Coach of Newark Arts High, Basketball Trainer and Player Manager | Hoop Story #073

Coach Proph, thanks for coming onto the platform! Fill the readers in on who you are and what you have going on!

I was born and raised in North NJ, specifically in Newark, which I am proud to call home. Newark is a city where success means a lot, and I am a graduate of Newark Arts High School where I am currently the Head Boys basketball coach. Notably, I hold the title of all-time leading scorer on the boy's side of the school. Under my leadership, Arts High School's basketball program has been a top 20 program, and we are making history every day. Since taking over the program, we have had winning seasons every year.

In addition to coaching, I am a trainer and player manager. I have worked with some of the top kids in the country for a while now, and I take pride in helping players achieve their goals. I have helped hundreds of kids get into college, whether it's D1, D2, D3, Juco, or NAIA. I also help players and parents navigate the current basketball space.

Growing up, many people wanted me to transfer to a bigger school because of my basketball talent. However, I decided to stay at Arts High School because I loved the school's atmosphere and education. I scored over 500 points in my sophomore year, but I knew that basketball was not the only thing that mattered. I preach this to the kids I work with now, and I believe that success in life is bigger than basketball.

I am also partnered with an NFT company where we allow student athletes to creat their own digital rookie card. In this world of NIL These kids can now have a digital card and make money from it. Verifiedink is the evolution of rookie cards!

How would you describe your coaching style?

I'm very very aggressive but I let my kids play man. That’s what my kids like about me. If you defend you will play. Offensively, within our dribble drive offense you can do your thing! Showcase yourself. I’m a defense first coach. My dad and godfather were big on things like how to angle people, be dogs on the defensive end, rebounding, switching defensive schemes and styles to keep people on their toes. I always want to see if teams can handle different defenses. I love Virginia for this very reason. They’re good every year because they are a defensive minded program. 

Offensively I want to see my guys run, space the floor, attack gaps, dribble drive and kick, hit shooters and be unselfish. I tell my kids everyday you may have a good shot but look for a great shot. There are reads they want to see you make at the next level so get better at moving the ball and playing together.

I will say, my energy feeds into them. You see me up and down the sideline coaching with passion. It helps feed the kids energy and it becomes contagious after that. My coaching styles breeds dogs. If me and my team are aggressive it helps. It’s hard to beat a team like that, especially at the high school level.

Let us in on a standout moment from one of your recent seasons with the school?

Funny story, we didn’t get to finish the game but once we got into a pushing match where the other school's fans came on the court. At the time the other team was number one in the state and this year number 5 in the country. We actually were in a dog fight with them. To give perspective we just ranked 15th in the state this year and we’re a performing arts high school. No one expected us to be neck and neck with a team that has Duke, NC, Arizona State and other D1 commits. We only had one kid committed at the time to Boston University. That level of play simply came from defense and aggressiveness. We set the tone that we came to play. Some people couldn’t fathom it but pressure busts pipes. I don’t care who you are, if you lock down on defense you can get anyone to fold. 

How would you describe your playing style?

Ay man, I shot the ball bro. I never saw a shot I didn’t like. Growing up, everyone knew me for defending hard and shooting. I call myself the traditional 3 and D guy. I’m only 6’2 so back then I was a point guard who created for myself.

I tell my kids now, “Hey I didn’t have anyone really to pass it too! You guys are 15 deep. I was lucky if I had 2 guys MAYBE I could pass the ball too because the school wasn’t known for basketball even though I was. I was playing with basketball with whatever coach put on the floor.” I joke with them all the time you play basketball to shoot the ball! Though we’re unselfish here, shoot it!

I tell them all the time, “Look, you’re in this gym putting in work just as much as the star player so shoot it!” Everyone on my team this season made a 3 pointer and I never yelled at them for shooting. I will yell for missing a defensive assignment though. I coach how I played. We're gonna work hard, not complain, play D and shoot the rock.

I have been on teams where I was the guy and teams where I was one of the guys but on all teams, I’ve been the captain and leader. I stand up for my team and what's right. That’s what these kids today don’t value anymore, leadership.

When I played JUCO, I was the captain of our team which was number one in the country. Some games I even came off the bench, but I never complained! Whatever the coach wanted, that's what it was. Understand your role.

What approach do you take for your more gifted athletes? 

I had the opportunity to coach guys like Jonathan Kuminga when he was in the 8th grade. I had him playing up 15u for the Nj Jayhawks. Obviously now he’s much better but I always saw greatness in him. He was super quiet and chill back then and was just a hard worker, I respect him for that. I tap in mentally, hitting guys up before and after games, chill with them, let them know I’m always a text, call or dm away. When guys come home, we hit the gym! When Dariq Whitehead came home from Duke, we hit the gym. We talk almost  every week about the details of his game. It’s about keeping it real with these guys, players and recruiters I may talk too about a player. I see a lot of coaches create situations where they just ride the players’ coat tails and that’s not me, it doesn’t help the kid grow. Be genuine. My purpose in life is to help these kids get to the next level. 

What measures do you take to keep these kids on the right track and away from the distractions of the inner city? 

My biggest thing is giving examples of what happened to kids that they know that's close to them. These kids that's coming up are seeing kids who had opportunity and throw it away, now we’re talking about what they could have been. We've all experienced those losses and experienced that pain. I experienced that myself! That's what kind of kept me on the straight and narrow. I've lost people you know who I thought was NBA talent that I was best friends with that got killed. I continued to play basketball to honor them and that helped me just become a whole different animal. We see that in our city far too often.

I always tell the kids, “Do what you love and love what you do.” That's even in my bio and that's something I stand by. I named my training company “Changing the Culture.” I tell the kids all the time, “If I help change the culture you have to change your mentality.” Everybody looks on cities entrenched with violence and this and that but there's so much good that comes out those cities.

When I started my training company in 2017 with my best friend, the first thing I said is we gotta find a way to change the culture and the outlook people have on our kids. We need to get them scholarships to schools, so they become the next educators, principles or Councilman. He said that we should name our company “Changing the Culture.” We got right too it man. We talked to the kids, mentor kids but you know my biggest thing on how to keep them focused is tell them you can't take care of nobody else until you take care of yourself and you can't tell nobody else what to do if you're not doing what you need to do.

I always tell them, look in the mirror. Are you the person that you want to be right now and if the answer is no then you have a lot more work to do. I tell the kids to look in the mirror and ask yourself these questions all the time. There's always room for improvement so that's our trick to get them to think differently, change their attitude, look at themselves differently. They don't have to indulge in what they're friends indulge in, whether that's drugs or whatever. It doesn’t matter where you start, it’s always where you finish.

I tell the kids and I just never take anything for granted and you never know who's watching. You’re only as good as your last game or last performance. Approach every day with passion. Don’t let a day go by where you’re not productive.

What’s next for Coach Proph? What goals or projects do you have in line for the future?

What Next well we all have to wait and see! I can tell you definitely what now and that’s me continuing to help kids get into college and help guide family who need it navigate this basketball world. I do these things from the heart and anyone who has worked with me can tell you that. 

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