There may not be too many people in Sunnyside who have heard of Josh Heytvelt.
But there are two who know Heytvelt quite well, George and Carol Johnson, his grandparents.
Heytvelt is a man among boys on the prep basketball court. Heytvelt, who weighs 215 lbs. and stands 6'10", has been the centerpiece of the Clarkston boys basketball team for the last three years and will now be taking his talents to Gonzaga University to play for Mark Few and the Bulldogs on a full-ride scholarship.
"He is quite the player," said Clarkston Coach Brendan Johnson. "He is legite. The talent is bar none. He has got that mix of talent that not a lot of big guys have."
Heytvelt recently finished his senior year playing for the Bantams basketball team. Heytvelt was named the most valuable basketball player of the Greater Spokane League this past season. The senior center helped the Bantams to a 23-5 record, and league, district and regional titles. Heytvelt was also instrumental in the Bantams' seventh place finish at the 3A State tournament.
Heytvelt's mother, formerly Michelle Johnson, is a 1975 graduate of Sunnyside High School. His grandfather, George, is a 1948 Grizzly graduate.
"We are happy for him," said Heytvelt's grandfather. "Everybody is anxious for him to get started (playing college basketball)."
Johnson said his grandson has always been quite the basketball player.
"I think he was born with a basketball in his hand," said Johnson.
Heytvelt comes from quite a tall family, said Johnson, who stands 6'0" himself. Heytvelt's father, Rolin, who is a captain with the Clarkston Fire Department, stands 6'5". Johnson said his two granddaughters come in at 6'3" and 6'4".
Coach Johnson, who has coached Heytvelt for the past three years, said he hasn't seen a big man like the 6'10" senior who can play both inside and out like he does.
"He has been a big part of our success here," said Coach Johnson.
Coach Johnson said his star center really didn't come into his own as a player until after Christmas break his sophomore season. Coach Johnson said Heytvelt moved up to varsity his sophomore year and led the team in rebounds and blocks, while averaging eight points per game. Heytvelt helped the Bantams to their first State tournament appearance since 1988. Heytvelt was named the newcomer of the year in the then Border League. Coach Johnson said Heytvelt was later selected to play for a Seattle Rotary Select basketball team and broke through as a star player that summer, taking part in some 50 games.
"I think that is when he realized his potential," said Coach Johnson.
Heytvelt's shining performance this past season had to be during senior night. In a 76-28 victory over Shadle Park of Spokane, Heytvelt scored 36 points, hitting 14-of-17 shots, including 5-of-6 3-pointers. Coach Johnson said the leadership Heytvelt brought to the Bantams was what has really stood out.
"The offense is just the icing on the cake," said Coach Johnson. "We kind of thrived off his energy."
This season, Heytvelt led the team in charges, which is unheard of for a big man.
"There are not many big men who lead a team in charges," said Coach Johnson. "He just knew when the right time (to take a charge) was."
Coach Johnson said Heytvelt also has a sense about him on the floor on how to stay out of foul trouble. The Clarkston senior fouled out of just three games all season.
Coach Johnson said when Heytvelt decided last June he was going to sign with Gonzaga, Bulldog Coach Mark Few nearly fell out of his chair.
"Mark told me he has the most skill of any big man they have recruited at Gonzaga," said Coach Johnson. "That is an amazing statement coming from someone like Mark Few.
Heytvelt's youth is about the only downside, said Coach Johnson. This summer, Heytvelt will be joining the 'Zags in Mexico to play basketball. Johnson said Heytvelt will still be 17 when he is playing college ball. Johnson also said Few has plans to start Heytvelt as a freshman.
"The next level is going to present some growing pains," said Coach Johnson. "I think he (Heytvelt) still has to get that killer instinct. Hopefully at Gonzaga he can get that. If he can get through his freshman year, I predict good things for Josh."
Johnson had an opportunity to see his grandson play at the State tournament a few weeks ago.
"I have only seen two games this season," said Johnson. "But we are kept informed."
Johnson said when his grandson was younger he never thought he would grow up to play for an elite college program such as Gonzaga. Johnson said his grandson had five to six big binders full of scholarship offers from colleges to play basketball.
"You name it, he has had an offer," said Johnson
Johnson said his grandson is also quite the baseball player, standing out as a pitcher.
Johnson said he can't wait to see his grandson play for Gonzaga and said he will watch him as often as he gets the opportunity.
"We just hope he remembers us when he is making $10 million," laughed the proud grandpa.
Michael Kantman/Daily Sun News
George and Carol Johnson hold a picture of their grandson, Josh Heytvelt, following his 36-point performance on senior night during this past winter basketball season. Heytvelt earned a full-ride scholarship to Gonzaga University next year and is expected to start as a freshman.