Two highly touted Santa Monica High basketball prospects are planning to continue their careers in the Pac-12.

Journeyman center Jayce Johnson recently committed to Utah, while standout guard Jonah Mathews has opted to play at USC.

Johnson and Mathews, who helped the Vikings reach the CIF Southern Section playoffs this past season, add to a crop of Division I talent in recent years under coach James Hecht.

The Daily Press takes a look at how each athlete reached this point:

Runnin’ with the Utes

When Johnson arrived at Samohi midway through his junior year, he was a 7-footer with a fragmented basketball past and an unknown future. Now, his future is a little clearer.

This month, the center laid out his next chapter with the Runnin’ Utes, and his size and skill will help him battle for playing time in the collegiate ranks.

Johnson chose the university in Salt Lake City over the California Golden Bears, according to multiple reports.

There’s a catch: Johnson won’t play his senior season at Samohi, instead electing to complete college requirements at a charter school.

But he’ll get a fresh start at Utah, which went 26-9 overall and 13-5 in league play last year. The Utes lost just one of their 17 home games.

Johnson will continue honing his talent under coach Larry Krystowiak, who has revitalized the Utah program since taking the helm in 2011.

The roster currently includes Brandon Taylor and Dakarai Tucker, both Los Angeles-area products who are now seniors. The only current player above 6-9 is Jakob Poeltl, a 7-foot forward from Austria.

Utah is the next stop on what has been a bumpy basketball journey for Johnson, who played at four different high schools.

He started his prep career at Santa Ana-Mater Dei, where he averaged just 2.8 points and 3.1 rebounds per game as the Monarchs went 34-2.

Johnson transferred to Gardena-Junipero Serra for his sophomore season, averaging 9.5 points and 9.0 rebounds per game.

He then started his junior year at Findlay Prep in Nevada, a well-known magnet for basketball prospects that has produced a handful of NBA players. But he took the floor just eight times, averaging 3.1 points and 6.1 rebounds in 12.8 minutes per game.

Johnson finished his junior season at Santa Monica, making his debut Jan. 14 with a 15-point, 11-rebound performance in the team’s 63-46 win over Hawthorne and emerging as an interior presence on both ends of the court.


It probably won’t surprise local basketball followers to learn that Mathews is going to play in the collegiate ranks.

His father, Philip Matthews, is the head men’s basketball coach at Riverside City College. And his older brother, Jordan Mathews, is currently a member of the team at Cal.

But his success isn’t due to his family alone, as evidenced by the 41 points he scored as a sophomore against Harvard-Westlake two years ago.

The younger Mathews chose USC over Gonzaga and San Diego State, according to recruiting website

Mathews figures to bolster a Trojans program that went 23-41 overall in its first two seasons under coach Andy Enfield. USC won just five conference games during that span.

The team’s roster currently includes another Ocean League product in former Lawndale forward Chimezie Metu.

Mathews will finish his Samohi career as the leader of a team that will be without Johnson and Spencer Freedman, who left the Vikings for Santa Ana-Mater Dei after starting as a freshman last year.

Freedman picked up an offer from USC this summer.

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