Josiah Hutt led Foothill to its first 25-win season and berth in the Northern California Division III semifinals. He averaged nearly 20 points per night and is now choosing where to play collegiately next year. (Graphic by Aaron Williams/Shasta County Sports, Photo by Mike Daly)
Next month, Josiah Hutt will decide where he’s going to play collegiate basketball.
The announcement will cap a decade-long journey that’s seen Hutt grow from a grade-school gym rat playing pickup games at the YMCA against grown men to high school prodigy playing varsity ball as a freshman to a senior leader pushing Foothill to heights its never before accomplished. And finally as the Shasta County Sports boys basketball Most Valuable Player for 2018-19.
And through it all, Big Jo, as he’s called, is simply doing what he loves and comes naturally.
“It’s my sanctuary,” he said. “On the court, I don’t have any worries.”
A forward with a shooter’s touch and mercenary’s attitude, Hutt’s only worries now are picking between suitors like Biola University, Stanislaus State and San Diego State. The school he picks will get a shooter and all-around player who averaged 18.4 points per game, 5.9 rebounds per night along with an assist, block and close to two steals per contest.
And as he mulls the choice, he said playing collegiately wasn’t something he really digested until last summer, the period before his senior year.
“That’s really when I started to think I could do something with basketball,” said Hutt who would like to major in Kinesiology.
But not his father, Joe Hutt, a Shasta County Sports Hall of Fame member who played overseas and in the CBA.
“Dad is always telling me I’m better now than he was at this age,” Josiah Hutt said, “and that he found his game after school.”
Foothill coach Bill Elliott certainly believes the younger Hutt is capable of anything he sets his mind to.
“If there was a major in basketball, he’d sign up for that,” Elliott joked. “Some kids are good players, but not good team players. Jo did a great job of being the leader of this team and playing with his teammates.”
Case in point 1: Foothill finished 25-9, reaching the Northern California Division III semifinals. Both the win total and NorCal semifinal berth are program high-water marks.
“On paper (at the beginning of the season) I don’t think we had the best team,” Elliott said. “Jo took that leadership role along with Chase Rossman and allowed guys (like Luke Lindsey and Bekdoo Lewis) to grow as varsity players.”
And, Elliott said, Hutt’s legacy will include next season as Lindsey and Lewis have each turned into go-to guys expected to pick up the mantle, just as Hutt had done from Thurman Knowles before him.
“He’s a big-time player,” Elliott said of Hutt, “and against the best teams he had his best games.”
Case in point 2: Foothill’s 58-56 NorCal quarterfinal road win over Fortuna.
Trailing by 12 in the fourth quarter, the Cougars drew even at 55 on a Lindsey triple before Hutt stepped up with 26 second left and daggered a 3-pointer that sent Foothill to San Francisco and a semifinal date with University.
“Everyone in the gym knew he was going to take that shot,” Elliott said, “and he took a 25-footer and buried it with someone in his face.”
That shot was a bit of a redemption for Hutt, who normally lives a shooter’s lifestyle by shooting, moving on and forgetting.
Except for the final sequence of the Northern Section final loss to Pleasant Valley. Trailing 43-41 with three seconds left, Hutt dribbled into the front court and was immediately triple teamed. He plated from 30 feet, elevated, but slipped on takeoff. And instead of pulling the trigger, he looked to the corner and Lindsey, who was surprised to be receiving the pass and shot long as the buzzer sounded.
“If I could go back, I would’ve taken the shot. Make or miss,” Hutt said. “I know I had a shot, I slipped a little, and felt in the last moment that Luke was open. I was trying to be unselfish and get a better look.”
But no regrets, from player or coach, they each say.
“He’s a pretty confident kid and I don’t think a missed shot in a big moment is going to affect him,” Elliott said. “If you live and die by last shot, you’re going to miss a lot of shots.
“He’s got a short memory.”
“I know I can shoot,” Hutt said. “I see all the videos of these kids around the country and I know no one can shoot better than me.”
And that, he says, will help carry him into heights only he can imagine.
“There’s still things to iron out (in my game), but I know I’ve got a shot,” Hutt said.