LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - No one will ever forget Johnny McCants epic half-court buzzer beater to beat Grand Canyon in 2019. But that win was just one of 118 that Johnny has racked up at New Mexico State, the most by any player in Aggie history.
McCants has cemented himself as an all-time Aggie and now as he enters the final weeks of his time on campus, he is thankful for his six years at his hometown school.
“It's made me a better man, a better person, a better family member," says McCants. "It’s just brought a lot to my life.”
Johnny has played for New Mexico State head coach Chris Jans for the last five seasons. But ironically, he wasn't recruited by Jans.
After graduating from Las Cruces’ then-Oñate High School in 2016, McCants signed on to play for then Aggie coach Paul Weir.
"I was recruited by Paul Weir. But then when he left for UNM (New Mexico), Jans came in and decided to keep me," says McCants of his coaching change after his redshirt freshman season.
“When he was a younger player in our program, I used to joke with him. I inherited you, I didn’t recruit you," laughs Jans. "Now I certainly wouldn’t say that.”
When the Aggies hired Jans in 2017, the new coach issued a challenge to McCants.
“I had too many individual conversations with Johnny to count that I can remember about his work ethic, his approach, and how it could better,” recalls Jans.
McCants remembers those conversations well.
“He was trying to get me to understand that I didn’t love the game at the moment," says McCants. "I just had passion for it. So he just kind of coached me up to loving the game more."
Since, Johnny has played in two NCAA Tournaments and won three regular season WAC conference titles.
But for someone who has played more games than anyone in New Mexico State history (141), McCants has only scored at least 20 points ONCE. That came in the Aggies most recent game, last Wednesday's loss to Stephen F. Austin.
Yet if you watch any Aggie game, you know how McCants affects it.
“I think he’s as impactful as anyone we have on our team as influencing the outcome of games,” says Jans of his captain.
MCants has started every game he's played in this season, and is third on the team in scoring and rebounds. His relentless hustle frequently leads to drawn offensive fouls, blocks, and steals.
Johnny's basketball journey at New Mexico State has intersected with his personal journey, as last month McCants and his girlfriend welcomed the birth of a son.
"Just to have someone I can provide for, it's just everything," says Johnny of his son Johnny McCants III.
Johnny only has a few weeks left at NMSU, and he’s taking it in like a wise veteran.
"Just want to take these last few games in at home and play the best I can. Play the best Aggie basketball we can. And continue to have fun."
If his career is any indication, at some point it’ll pay off.
Senior Night for the Aggies is Saturday at home vs. Utah Valley at 7pm.