Recruiting promises are wide ranging and some of them are actually true.
Like the one where Grand Canyon coach Russ Pennell told every player he sat down with over the last few years that the Lopes were moving to Division I.
“They pitched it to me and it was a big reason I ended up here,” Mountain Pointe product Jerome Garrison said. “Now that it is here it is a great chance for us to play at the highest level.”
GCU announced last week that it was joining the Western Athletic Conference and that it was making the jump from Division II to Division I in all of its sports starting in the fall.
“When we moved here (from the Seattle area) none of this was really here,” senior Josh Lowery, a Desert Vista grad who transferred from Pepperdine this offseason. “It’s awesome to see what this place has become. Coming from Washington, I can see GCU becoming another Gonzaga.”
While that remains to be seen, one thing is for sure while the Lopes are still in Division II this season, GCU is playing above the competition considering the team is currently in the midst of an eight-game win streak.
“We have a better flow now,” Garrison said, referring to the 1-2 start to the year. “It takes time to get things together. We have a good unit after more practice time and time together. We’ve been focused on defense and we are on a good run.”
The Lopes, who are 9-2 heading into Friday’s home game against Montana State-Billings, have a heavy Ahwatukee flavor.
In addition to Garrison and Lowery, who are the team’s two leading scorers, Desert Vista graduates Barret Robbins, a transfer from Chandler-Gilbert, is a senior and Jeff Lowery, who is Josh’s freshman brother.
Garrison, who is averaging 10.2 points a game, could be ganged up on with all of those ex-Thunder players hanging around, but this past high school football season gave him a bit of a trump card.
“We are always messing with each other about the rivalry,” Garrison said. “With Mountain Pointe going to the state championship game, I go talk a little more. We bark at each other about it, but it’s in a good family sort of way.”
Family is definitely part of the reason why Josh Lowery, who leads the team in scoring ( 13.0 points), assists (3.3) and steals (1.0), ended up with the Lopes.
“There were new coaches at Pepperdine and I wanted to play somewhere where I’d play a significant role,” Lowery said. “I played for coach Russ in AAU and couldn’t pass up a chance to play with my brother.”
While at Pepperdine, where he averaged 8.7 points per game and 3.0 assists per game last year, he never got a chance to see Jeff, who is averaging 3.7 points a game, play for Desert Vista.
Now, not only is he seeing him play on a daily basis they are living with each other.
“Family is very important to me, and to be on the same court with him has been unbelievable,” said Lowery, who hopes to play overseas or purse a career with his communications degree after graduation. “It’s everything I wanted it to be when I decided to come here. It’s actually been better than expected.”
The play on the court has been awfully good as well as the Lopes continue to build off last year’s national tournament experience.
GCU lost in the first round of the West Region Tournament, but it showed the players what could be accomplished .
“It showed us what we are capable of,” Garrison said. “If we do what we do we can beat anyone in the country. When we focus and concentrate we can play at a very high level.
“We want to host a region tournament and get to the Final Four, but that’s just talk. We have to go out and show we can do it every time out.”
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