McKeesport, PA. – Growing up, sports were always a huge part of daily life in the Prota household. Sunday’s were dedicated to football and it was a time where the whole family would come together and enjoy each other’s company while cheering on their teams. It was these moments that instilled a love of sports into Penn State Greater Allegheny Men’s Basketball player George Prota (Elizabeth, PA./Elizabeth Forward HS).
From a young age, Prota knew he wanted to be involved in athletics. The first sport that was in season when he showed interest was basketball and his dad took him that day to tryouts as a way to get his son involved in sports.
“My dad introduced me to basketball at a pretty young age,” said Prota. “He just took me to tryout and said ‘your playing sports’. Basketball was the first one in season and I just fell in love from the start.”
Prota would grow up playing both basketball and football throughout elementary and middle school receiving a lot of support from his family and those surrounding him. The families love for sports followed Prota on the court and only helped his love for sports to grow in his early athletics career.
“My family always enjoyed sports,” said Prota. “Sundays were dedicated to watching football and tailgating and sports were a big fellowship time in my family. My parents would always come to the games and I always had a lot of love and support from them.”
As Prota transitioned into the high school game, he decided to focus solely on basketball and honing his skill. He started his high school career at Serra Catholic High School where he played for two seasons. In his sophomore year with the Eagles, he was one of the top players on the team averaging 14.2 points per game while grabbing 10.8 rebounds per game leading Serra Catholic in both categories.
He would then transfer to Elizabeth Forward for his junior season where he joined a team that was picked to win the WPIAL championship. It was a whole new environment for Prota and he flourished around his new team.
“I transferred to Elizabeth Forward for my junior year and had a good experience there,” said Prota. “Junior year we were picked to win the championship and we ended up losing early in the playoffs which taught me a lesson. Senior year was a lot of fun just going through the recruiting process and seeing how that works.”
Prota’s career flourished at Elizabeth Forward where he scored over 1,000 points including averaging 18.2 PPG and 13.0 REB/G in his senior season. He was getting looked at by NCAA Division I schools and was having fun going through the recruiting process.
While the recruiting process started out strong for the Prota during his junior season, it was in the summer of that season that a wrench was thrown into his plans of playing division I college basketball.
“I started getting recruited by division I schools all over and going to national tournaments for AAU,” said Prota. “I was playing with such high-profile teams and getting a lot of calls from Division I and then I wasn’t able to play in the July Live period because I hurt my ankle and I had to get surgery. After that, most of the division I interest fell off.”
With his dreams of playing division 1 basketball crushed, Prota focused on continuing to improve his game and eventually got an offer to play at Pitt-Johnstown. He went their for his freshman season, and saw some time appearing in 17 games for UPJ scoring 40 points that season.
It was a tough season for Prota and after almost being red shirted and he thought his time on the basketball court had come to an end.
“[Ending my basketball career] was a hard decision for sure,” said Prota. “It was a very emotional decision and a long thought process and I just decided I was done with basketball. I was going to go to school, get an education, and be fine with it. Then Jordon [Payne] and I were playing in a men’s league and he said ‘why don’t you come play for us.’”
That one sentence brought Prota to the place he would call home for the next three seasons. He visited campus for an open gym session and talked to head coach Tyler Care about where he saw him fitting in with the team and what his role would be heading into his sophomore season.
“When I first came on campus it was for basketball at an open gym,” said Prota. “[Tyler Care] talked to me and showed me around telling me a bit about the campus. I think that was a good first experience for me because it tied into basketball. Tyler laid out for me what he expected from me and we talked about what our expectations were of each other and it worked out.”
In that first season, PSUGA took off finishing a program best 23-6 and made it all the way to the Penn State University Athletic Conference Championship game against Penn State York. Being surrounded by some of the best players to ever wear a PSUGA uniform including Khari Hicks, Curtis Newby, and Denzel Boyer-London Prota went on to have the best collegiate season of his career finishing fourth on the team with 10.7 ppg and second with 8.3 reb/g.
“My sophomore year proved that the decision to come back was worth it,” said Prota. “I came in not knowing anything about the conference or where PSUGA stood in the conference. Just to come in and take us to that next level solidified my decision that this is what I should be doing. I felt I made the right decision about playing basketball.”
Not only was Prota part of the first PSUAC championship for PSUGA in ten years, but he played the best game of his life. He got his team going scoring the first six points of the game helping them to an early lead. Prota finished the game with 12 points and a team high 16 rebounds in what has been called the best game in his PSUGA career.
“That game was just incredible,” said Prota. “We all came out with an intense energy that they couldn’t match. I had the first six points of the game and I was emotionally into it more then any game I have ever been to in my life. Just the intensity and effort we played with that year was like non other.”
During his career at PSUGA, Prota helped lead the team to the PSUAC playoffs in each of his three seasons and twice took his team to the United States Collegiate Athletic Association National Tournament. He scored 618 of his career 658 points in a PSUGA uniform and finished his three-year career as the third all-time leading rebounder in school history with 488 rebounds.
He had some ups and downs throughout his PSUGA career but he feels it has made him a better person and has prepared him for life after college.
“I think having both seasons, a winning season and a season where we fell short of expectations, just goes to show you that nothing it handed to you and you have to work for everything,” said Prota. “We went from not being the favorite to win and winning it all to being the favorite to win but not getting it. It shows you always have to fight for something you want.”
It is that fight and hard work that Prota says will make you successful at PSUGA. They took him from a spot where he was set to leave the sport of basketball to becoming a PSUAC Champion in a year’s time. It is this mentality of hard work and passion that Prota says makes PSUGA a great place to play college basketball.
“Everyone here wants to win,” said Prota. “Everyone is looking for a championship and that is what you will get here. It is a team that is championship ready and primed and you just have to put in the hard work to get there.”
Prota now wants to focus on traveling and seeing the world for what it truly is while keeping his love and passion for sports alive. He hopes to work for a professional sports franchise in basketball or football while using the hard work that he learned at PSUGA to make a difference in the world around him.