Isaiah Rhyanes: A profile in perseverance

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"I want to be a mentor, coach and teacher in the El Paso community," Rhyanes told The Prospector. "My time at UTEP has been amazing, to be able to stay in my community to play for a storied program like the Miners has been a dream come true."

Michael Cuviello, Sports editor

As in many young men that play sports, Isaiah Rhyanes dreamed of playing basketball at the college level. The odds of being able to play college basketball are not very good for most people, but as a bench player for a high school team, it is an even longer shot. Rhyanes was an essential backup for the Andress Eagles as a junior and a senior in High School locally in El Paso. Winning back to back district titles for the local school as well as making it to the state final four in his senior year were significant achievements in for any player. Academically Rhyanes excelled by being a member of the national honor society. 

With his high school career over and no college offers Rhyanes decided to attend El Paso Community College (EPCC) and pursue a degree in Culinary Arts with an eye on transferring to UTEP soon. Although he still thought of continuing his basketball career, there was no clear path to make this happen. After getting his associate’s degree  in Special Education Teaching from EPCC, Rhyanes was convinced to try out for the UTEP basketball team by a local business owner that knew UTEP Head Coach Tim Floyd. 

During the 2017 academic year, Rhyanes transferred to UTEP, changing his degree to multidisciplinary Studies   Rhyanes was able to get a tryout along with two other players in the fall of 2017. Given a chance to make the team, Rhyanes gave everything that he had trying to earn a spot on the roster. When he found out he had made the team, his excitement to being able to continue playing brought tears to his eyes. 

For a hometown kid to be able to play for a University with the rich basketball tradition of UTEP, it was a dream come true regardless of where it took him.  

 “Obviously Tim Floyd had coached at great colleges and the NBA it was a great experience getting a chance to play for him,” Rhyanes said. 

That very same season, Floyd would resign, creating a new challenge for Rhyanes, he would again have to prove that he belonged on the team. 

“When Coach Terry came in, I felt like I would have to try out all over again; this would not be a walk in the park. It was very hard, “Rhyanes said. “I told myself there would be a light at the end of the tunnel.” 

After two seasons of being a scout player for the Miners, Rhyaneswas consistently praised for his hard work but did not garner any playing time. Rhyanes remained humble and did his best to help the team prepare for every game. There was a major influx of transfers when Terry came aboard, so staying on the team was going to be no easy task for his senior season. Nicknamed Juice for his effort in practice, Rhyanes worked as hard as he could to contribute in some small way. 

Early in the season, Rhyanes got the first playing time of his career in a blowout of Eastern New Mexico University Nov. 15, 2019, in the final minute. The Don Haskins Center crowd of 4400 fans were all on their feet, cheering as Rhyanes entered the game. It was almost like the scene from the movie Rudy when he took the court. Much like the Hollywood film, Rhyanes got his showtime moment delivering a monstrous two-handed dunk in the game’s final minute. The only shot of his career would be a dunk that brought the loudest cheers of the season from the home crowd. The sheer look of joy and excitement displayed as he slammed the ball through the hoop was an iconic moment for all in observance. 

On senior night Rhyanes would get his first and only career start against Southern Mississippi. Rhyanes was last a starter on the JV team in High school. As the season ended, Rhyanes was named to his second C-USA All-academic team for his hard work in the classroom. As a tribute to his community service, Rhyanes was also called a Spirit of Service award winner for C-USA. 

“UTEP basketball did a lot for me, took me places where I have never been,” Rhyanes said. ‘That’s the beauty of playing college basketball, once you make the team you get a chance to see things you never dreamed of seeing as you travel to new locations and meet different people.  

Rhyanes said the opportunity to go to Hawaii was his favorite destination and he relished the chance to see the beautiful beaches that he had only seen on television. 

Rhyanes is now a graduate student that is working toward his advanced degree in Leadership Studies. Choosing that discipline, Rhyanes feels it is a fascinating discipline that will help him in his future endeavors of teaching or even coaching at some point. Giving back to his community and a career in education are ambitions of Rhyanes 

“I want to be a mentor, coach and teacher in the El Paso community,” Rhyanes said. “My time at UTEP has been amazing, to be able to stay in my community to play for a storied program like the Miners has been a dream come true.” 

Michael Cuviello may be reached at [email protected]