Shadow Mountain HS: a recruiting pipeline for GCU hoops

Arizona’s four D-I colleges make a concerted effort to spread their recruiting nets over local high schools, hoping to find a hidden gem right in their own backyard.

Grand Canyon University‘s head basketball coach, Dan Majerle, has apparently found fertile ground in the talent-rich backyard of Shadow Mountain High School. The relatively small school of about 1,400 students in northeast Phoenix has won the last four 4A state titles and five of the last six, so it’s not surprising that Majerle and his staff have kept a close watch on the basketball program there.

As far as we know, and there are no statistics to prove it, GCU may have set some kind of record at a recent game against Purdue Fort Wayne when Majerle started three players from the same school.

The trio from Shadow Mountain includes senior Carlos Johnson, redshirt junior J.J. Rhymes, and freshman Jovan Blacksher, Jr.

Blacksher, a 6-0 point guard that is cut from the mold of a classic playmaker at that position, won three state championships while at Shadow Mountain, playing under former NBA player, Mike Bibby. Johnson (pictured above), a 6-3 guard, won a state title his sophomore year before finishing his last two years of high school in California and Nevada. And Rhymes, a 6-4, 205-pound wing, got to play on a championship team before leaving to play at Hutchinson (Kansas) Community College, where he led that team to a JUCO national championship.

Rhymes’ role with the three musketeers has ended abruptly, thanks to a hip injury that will sideline him for the remainder of the season. The ‘Lopes are on a three-game losing streak and can ill afford more injuries. However, it should be noted that their opponents during those three games have a combined record of 33-3.

Majerle, who’s in his seventh season running the program, has won 20 or more games each of the last four seasons, but the ‘Lopes are off to an uncharacteristic 4-9 start to the 2019-20 season.

GCU is working its way through a very challenging non-conference schedule, which Majerle sets up each season to test his teams early. However, this year he is working with a roster decimated by injuries, transfers, and eligibility issues – which has left him with the thinnest bench since he took over the program.

NCAA transfer rules forced Johnson to sit out last season after transferring in from Washington, but he’s been a dependable starter this season. And Blacksher has joined him in the back court as the freshman is getting a truckload of playing time.

Rhymes has played in all but one game this season, averaging 5.4 points and 3.6 rebounds in 23 minutes a game.

The void left in the line-up will likely be filled by Mikey Dixon, a guard who transferred in from St. John’s last year and is now eligible to begin playing in games. And none too soon – the ‘Lopes begin WAC Conference play as soon as Christmas break ends.

Unfortunately, the recruiting well may be in jeopardy of drying up at Shadow Mountain. Bibby, who developed the talent GCU has been utilizing during his four years as Shadow Mountain’s coach, was relieved of his volunteer role after last season. The current team, under Curtis Millage, is off to a 7-2 start.

(Photo: GCU Athletics)