A look at the Arizona ties to NCAA Tournament teams

Mar 16, 2021, 12:56 PM | Updated: 1:17 pm

The Grand Canyon Antelopes may be the only Arizona team heading to the NCAA Tournament this year, but there are still several players with high school ties to the state who will be suiting up for their teams in hopes of taking home the NCAA championship trophy.

Let’s take a look at some of the Arizona connections on March Madness teams.

No. 15 GCU Antelopes

It’s no surprise that the Lopes have the most Arizona ties on their team, with four total.

Before his success at GCU, sophomore standout Jovan Blacksher Jr. helped lead Shadow Mountain in Phoenix to a state title all four years over his high school career. This season with the Lopes, Blacksher led the team in assists (5.3 per game) and minutes played (32 per game), while also ranking third in average points (11.9 per game).

Junior Rashad Smith transferred to Grand Canyon after two years at Pima Community College. The Hamilton High School grad leads the team in 3-point percentage, shooting 46.7% beyond the arc, and appeared in 10 games over the course of his first season as an Antelope.

Gabe McGlothan, a product of Basha High School in Chandler, also made his debut for GCU this season after transferring from Southeast Missouri State and redshirting last year. The former Basha Bear was named the Premier Region Player of the Year in 2016-17 and helped lead his high school team to a Class 6A state championship. McGlothan played in all 23 games for the Lopes this year, averaging 5.8 points, 0.6 assists and 5.3 rebounds in 16.7 minutes per game.

Forward Ethan Spry appeared in five games for the Lopes in his sophomore season this year. While in high school at Scottsdale Christian Academy, he was named the 2019 2A Metro Region Player of the Year.

No. 6 seed BYU Cougars

Here’s a name that Arizona fans will likely recognize. Alex Barcello, a former four-star recruit out of Corona del Sol High School, played two seasons with the Arizona Wildcats before transferring to BYU. Barcello is the leading man for the Cougars, topping the team in points per game (15.9) and minutes played (31.7). He recently set a new single-game BYU record for most threes without a miss when he went a perfect 7-of-7 in a win against San Francisco.

BYU guard Alex Barcello (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

Also on the BYU squad is Wyatt Lowell, who prepped at Williams Field High School in Gilbert. While in high school, Lowell was rated as the state’s No. 1 power forward by The sophomore didn’t see much time on the court this season. He played a total of seven games and averaged 6.6 minutes per game.

No. 8 seed UNC Tar Heels

Puff Johnson, brother to the Phoenix Suns’ Cam Johnson, graduated from Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix and earned MVP honors before becoming a Tar Heel. In his first season with UNC, Johnson played in 14 games before suffering an injury in January. He averaged 1.4 points, 0.5 rebounds and 0.1 assists on the season.

No. 3 seed Kansas Jayhawks

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot got his start at Gilbert Christian High School, where he led the team to a 21-6 record his senior year and was named the Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year for 2015-16. With Kansas this season, Lightfoot has averaged 3.4 points and 2.6 rebounds in the 28 games he’s played.

No. 6 seed USC Trojans

A native of Phoenix, Noah Baumann graduated from Desert Vista High School in 2017 before playing two years at San Jose State and now USC. The 6-foot-6 guard finished USC’s regular season appearing in 27 matchups with an average of 4 points per game.

Southern California guard Noah Baumann (AP Photo/Ashley Landis) 

No. 14 seed Eastern Washington Eagles

After graduating high school in California, Austin Fadal opted to play one year at Phoenix’s Hillcrest Prep before entering college. Fadal was one of the eight finalists nationwide for the National Prep Hoops Offensive Post-Graduate/Prep School Player of the Year while at Hillcrest. Now in a redshirt sophomore year for Eastern Washington, the guard appeared in four games this season.

No. 16 seed Norfolk State Spartans

Nyzaiah Chambers is another Hillcrest Prep grad by way of Virginia. In his 2018-19 season he spent in Phoenix, Chambers helped lead Hillcrest to a 35-5 record. Now as a Spartan, Chambers appeared in 19 games of the 2020-21 season in which he averaged 4.1 points and 1.6 rebounds in 8.1 minutes per game.

No. 5 seed Colorado Buffaloes

Freshman forward Jabari Walker, originally from Inglewood, California, recently graduated from AZ Compass Prep in Phoenix before making his debut in Colorado. The four-star recruit had a strong freshman campaign, averaging 7.3 points, 0.5 assists and 4.4 rebounds in 24 total games.

Colorado forward Jabari Walker (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

No. 10 seed Maryland Terrapins

Chol Marial has traveled far in his career from his hometown of South Sudan to Arizona to Maryland. The 7-foot-2 center played his senior year at AZ Compass Prep and was rated as the No. 2 player in Arizona by ESPN. Marial, now in his sophomore year in the Big Ten, played 17 games this season and averaged 1.6 points and 1.1 rebounds.

No. 11 seed Drake Bulldogs

Devin Dahlke is a recent graduate of St. Mary’s in Phoenix and just wrapped his freshman season with the Drake Bulldogs where he appeared in four games. While in high school, Dahlke was named the 2019-20 4A Skyline Region Defensive Player of the Year.

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A look at the Arizona ties to NCAA Tournament teams