Just hours before Thursday’s tip-off against UC Santa Barbara, UCR men’s basketball coach, Dennis Cutts, delivered an announcement that could be the most crushing blow in the midst of an already excruciating season.
The announcement: Star forward Taylor Johns has been dismissed from the team for an undisclosed violation of both team and athletic department rules.
Johns was also suspended from the team for five games earlier in the season and Cutts made clear to the Press-Enterprise that these two incidents are indeed related. “He knew what was at stake … He understood the consequences of his actions,” said Cutts, “He made a very poor decision, and there were consequences with that decision.”
Johns’ dismissal is a heartbreaker on multiple fronts. The senior Johns, who just recently became the program’s all-time leader in blocks, is now forced to end his UCR career abruptly. The team as a whole loses its intended leader just weeks before conference tournament and senior guard Jaylen Bland is now forced to endure a not-so-glorious finish to his Highlander journey.
For Cutts and his staff, this is indeed difficult to swallow. The Highlanders were a team that many expected to contend for a conference title and the staff spoke highly of Johns as the one to lead them there. Though now, with four regular season games remaining and UCR sitting just two spots away from the conference’s bottom seed, there is no Johns and potentially, no conference title.