Boys Basketball: Joshua Fox and Taylor Johns commit to play at UC Riverside

Sacred Heart Cathedral seniors Joshua Fox (left) and Taylor Johns (center) led the Irish to the Division III state championship game and will continue to play together at UC Riverside next season. (Photo by Doug Ko)

By Jeremy Balan

There were hints that the two best players in San Francisco high school basketball would go to the same college to extend their playing careers.

In conversation, Joshua Fox and Taylor Johns, the seniors that led Sacred Heart Cathedral to the Division III state championship game, would say things like, “we haven’t made a decision yet.”

The hints ended up being based in fact, and after a visit to UC Riverside over the weekend, the pair has verbally committed to play for the Highlanders. They will likely sign letters of intent on Wednesday or when they return from spring break early next week.

Sacred Heart Cathedral senior forward Taylor Johns going up for a dunk against on the road against Mitty on Jan. 20. (Photo by Devin Chen)

“It was important [that we went together], because we want to play together,” said Johns, a 6-foot-6 forward. “We have a good chemistry, played AAU together and played together in high school since we were sophomores. We’re like brothers.”

The two friends are happy to be playing with each other at the next level, but Fox stressed that it wasn’t a priority unless it was the right fit. Louisiana-Monroe was also interested in the pair as a package deal, but Fox received interest alone from Columbia and Cornell, while Johns had interest from Portland and Sacramento State.

“We loved the opportunity schools gave us to play together, because we love to play together,” said Fox, a 6-foot-5 forward in high school that figures to be a wing player in college. “We didn’t jump into the decision and we like the school for the right reasons.”

The Highlanders went 14-17 last season and 7-9 in Big West Conference play, but only return four scholarship players. The Big West will add Hawaii in basketball next season and San Diego State the following year, and that increased competition added to the allure for Johns and Fox, but both players wanted to be involved with building the program as a part of a crucial incoming freshman class.

The idea of getting early playing time didn’t hurt either.

“That was one of the biggest things, getting early playing time and making an impact on the program,” Fox said. “We don’t want to go to college to sit on the bench.”

Both also credited the UC Riverside coaching staff and head coach Jim Wooldridge as factors in their decision and Fox even compared the Highlanders’ staff to his high school coaches. Wooldridge also impressed Sacred Heart head coach Darrell Barbour when he showed up to watch the Irish practice twice in San Francisco.

“We loved the campus, and the coaches, they have our back,” Johns said.

Sacred Heart Cathedral senior forward Joshua Fox releases a layup in the lane against St. Ignatius on Feb. 6 at Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep. (Photo by Eric Luis)

Johns, who was considered a more-desirable player by recruiters, has already had to go through a process of calling coaches to inform them he will not be going to their school, an uncomfortable but necessary process.

“It was fun to feel like you’re wanted, but the hardest part was calling the other coaches and saying I wasn’t going there,” Johns said. “I had to be a man and just tell them.”

That was just the first step in becoming a college basketball player for Johns, but Barbour has advised both on what to expect at the next level, where production on the court and in the classroom is paramount.

“The honeymoon is over,” Barbour said. “Now your job is to go there and be successful as a basketball player. It’s a business deal and it’s a tradeoff. They want you to perform as a student athlete and you get your education paid for. Not a lot of people get that opportunity.”

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  1. Ari Gold says:

    Congrats to Joshua and Taylor on receiving college scholarships. They will both be immune from tuitions increases by UCs! Riverside is scorching hot and in the middle of nowhere but hopefully it will provide a great college experience to the both of them. And its only an hour away from LA and 3 hours away from Vegas!

  2. JJ says:

    Even if it’s a 3 hour drive to Vegas, an 18 yr old college freshman will find Vegas boring without a fake ID. And a 1 hour drive to LA is really more than 2 hours, if you consider traffic. Anyways, Congrats to the 2 WCAL legends. I think I will lay down the +14 when they play Long Beach State. Even though they won’t go down in history of SHC basketball like “The Governor” and the manimal Kevin Greene, they almost did, and gave San Francisco alot of excitement this past year. I hope they achieve great success at the next level.

  3. dakyne says:

    What I posted on the Big West message board, where UCR is a member.

    These are good pickups. They were overlooked due to them playing forward in high school, and both project to be wings in college. Fox did face up a lot, and Johns plays bigger than his listed 6’6″. The key is they are both winners and held their own against more heralded players, including top-5 Aaron Gordon, and top-30 Stephen Domingo, both class of 2013 players. In fact, Johns and Fox dominated Domingo.

    Sure, they are late spring signees, but these guys should be solid BW players. They are both athletic and gritty. Fox has more perimeter skills, but Johns is a beast in the paint.

    With Tajai Johnson in the fold, UCR should be looking better not this season, but starting 2013 – 2014, when they will be sophomores or redshirt freshmen.

  4. Charlie Peters says:

    The arguments on this site never cease to amaze.

    Guy #1 makes throwaway comment. Guy #2 whines about Guy #1’s throwaway comment and argues it, senselessly. (“Even if it’s a 3 hour drive to Vegas, an 18 yr old college freshman will find Vegas boring without a fake ID. And a 1 hour drive to LA is really more than 2 hours, if you consider traffic.”) Then Guy #3 (me) has to complain about it, essentially doing what the others are doing. Damn.

    Let’s stick to the sports and congratulating two fantastic young ballplayers, not arguing about traffic.

  5. CoachForslund says:

    Great to see 2 more SF players getting an opportunity to play @ the next level. Both Fox and Johns were very entertaining to watch and terrific teammates and team players. Congrats also to Coach Barbour and his entire coaching staff for another outstanding season. Very classy coach and even better person. Coach Barbour and staff have brought the SHC program to a very high level of play. 4 years in a row winning a CCS title is quite an accomplishment to say the least.

    All the best to both young fellas, a special day for everyone involved. I know 2 mentors are smiling from ear to ear, Nate Ford of the SF Rebels and Marty Arenas from St. Mary’s park. Congrats as well!

  6. City Lights says:

    Absolutely. Congratulation to Fox and “TayBangOut5” lol. This is an incredible opportunity. Enjoy FREE college! Having no debt coming out of school will be a great springboard to a successful career and family.

    Great job fellas. I’ll miss the excitement you brought to The City these last couple years. I know the coaches at SI & ARHS will be happy to wish you well and see you go to the next level. Domination…

  7. Big guy 24 says:

    Coach Forslund said it perfectly, congrats to the kids for working so hard and take advantage of the education you are being given. Represent the city of SF with pride and always be proud of where you came from. St.mary’s SF and the SF Rebels are proud of you guys!! Education 1st young men…

  8. merkinworld says:

    All the best to these two young men. Congratulations to them and their families. Going to a UC campus is a great achievement.

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