GCU basketball reunites former Shadow Mountain stars


Carlos Johnson (23) and J.J. Rhymes (0) have a lot in common.  They both had a former NBA player as their basketball coach in high school, and both won a state championship.

That’s because they were teammates for two years at Shadow Mountain High School, where Mike Bibby put their talents to good use as they combined to help the Matadors to one of four state titles Bibby has won at the Phoenix high school.

Johnson switched schools for his junior and senior years, but a deep and lasting bond had been created between the two players.  It also helped that they played five years of club ball together.

Now, their paths are crossing once again as each has committed to return to Phoenix to play for Grand Canyon University.

“I grew up with Carlos, basically,” said Rhymes in a spring interview with GCU’s Paul Corso.  “That’s my brother.  We don’t call each other friends, we call each other brothers.

“Us coming together on the court is going to be a blessing.  We’re going to be magic, for sure.”

Their reunion on the court won’t be complete until the 2019-20 season since Johnson will have to sit out a year after transferring in from the University of Washington, a move mandated by NCAA transfer rules.  But they will no doubt make the most of their time together this season at practice and on the bench.

Rhymes played his last two years at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas, so he will be eligible to get on the floor this season.  At Hutchinson, one of the top JUCO programs in the country, the 6’4″ wing averaged 19.6 points, four rebounds, and three assists last season.  A Division I JUCO All-American, he will bring the ability to be an explosive scorer to a GCU program that averaged 74 points a game last year and finished a second straight season with 20+ wins.

“I’ve loved J.J. since he’s been in high school,” said GCU head coach Dan Majerle, a former Phoenix Suns player who is entering his sixth season at the Christian college in west Phoenix. “He’s ultra-competitive and extremely tough.  He can really get to the basket and score.’

Johnson played every game of his freshman year at Washington, but saw his playing time reduced last season and took on a reserve role for the Huskies.  But he was still the team’s fifth-leading scorer, averaging six points and three rebounds a game in 18 minutes of playing time per game.  He did start four games in his freshman year, during which he showed the explosive nature of his game as he erupted for 19 points and 12 rebounds against Arizona State.  Johnson played that first season behind Markelle Fultz, the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA draft.

Majerle uses words like “fearless”, “athletic”, “a bull”, and “mismatch nightmare” to describe Johnson.

“I know he’ll be really good for us,” he says.  “He’s the kind of guy who plays with a chip on his shoulder.  He wants to get better.  He’ll work (because) he has something to prove.”

And now the two ‘brothers’ have something else in common by returning to the Valley.  They’re both back again to being coached by a former NBA player — and hoping to find the same kind of success they enjoyed under the first one.

(Photos: GCU Athletics)