PHOENIX – Chemistry is important to Grand Canyon basketball players Holland Woods and Taeshon Cherry. The former Sun Devils decided to transfer to GCU because they saw a strong connection within the men’s basketball team, a kinship that reminded them of their own friendship.
Woods and Cherry have been best friends since 2020, when they met as members of the Arizona State basketball program after Woods transferred there from Portland State. Since then, they’ve been inseparable – even in deciding to leave ASU.
After the 2020-21 season, Woods and Cherry entered the transfer portal at the same time and wound up together again in a program just 17 miles northwest of their old playing grounds in Tempe.
The two had been discussing GCU as a potential landing spot if they transferred, but both athletes were initially unsure about where they would land.
Cherry, a forward, was the first of the two to make the crosstown move. In April, after the Sun Devils finished the season with a disappointing 11-14 record, he made the announcement via social media that for the upcoming season he would be wearing a Lopes uniform.
Woods, a guard, soon followed with a social media announcement of his own, stating he would be joining the Lopes for his final college season, too. It is the Phoenix native’s second transfer, following the move he made from Portland State to ASU in 2020.
And on Dec. 9 in Tempe, the two will make their homecoming to Desert Financial Arena when Grand Canyon and Arizona State face off in a highly-anticipated rivalry game between their new team and their old one.
“It’ll be a lot of fun,” Woods said. “Me and (ASU) coach (Bobby) Hurley still have a good relationship to this day. I’m sure we’ll be chatting back and forth.”
Although Woods is wearing a different uniform, he’s playing with some familiar faces. A graduate of Apollo High School in Glendale, Woods played with and competed against Lopes forward Gabe McGlothan as well as Lopes guard Jovan Blacksher Jr. when they were kids, making the adjustment fairly easy.
Cherry said it was GCU’s team environment and culture, cultivated by second-year coach Bryce Drew, that made the Lopes appealing.
“The coaching staff really influenced me to come here,” Cherry said.
The chemistry within the men’s basketball team is already on full display this season with the Lopes off to a 2-0 start going into their game Wednesday against Prairie View A&M.
Woods and Cherry both said they are impressed with the way Drew built the team around a balanced offense.
“He likes to give the bigs the ball,” Cherry said. “We play a lot around the bigs moving the ball.”
At 6-feet-8, 220 pounds, Cherry is an asset to the Lopes’ front court. Coming off the bench last season, Cherry, a Top 35 prospect from El Cajon, California, averaged 3.9 points and 2.3 rebounds for Arizona State.
“For him to be here, it’s special,” Woods said.
In GCU’s second game of the season against North Florida, Cherry contributed five points, five rebounds and a pair of assists in 17 minutes off the bench as the Lopes won, 65-51.
Meanwhile, as a fifth-year senior, Woods hoped to utilize his previous years of experience to provide leadership and reliability for Drew after averaging 6.7 points and 1.9 assists last season for Hurley.
Woods has started Grand Canyon’s first two games alongside Blacksher in the Grand Canyon backcourt and scored nine points, handed out five assists and took down a couple of rebounds in a team-high 35 minutes against North Florida.
“He puts me in positions where I know I’ll thrive,” Woods said of Drew.
The seasoned veteran exhibited his experience and playmaking abilities against the Ospreys, orchestrating a 7-0 Grand Canyon run after Blacksher fouled out late in the game, sealing the Lopes victory.
Woods and Cherry agreed that the tight team environment is also a big part of the Grand Canyon program off the court. The Lopes spent a Saturday in late September serving the community that supports them by volunteering in a Habitat for Humanity project in which players were up at sunrise to go to work making improvements to a local Phoenix home.
“It’s things like that that you don’t realize brings you together as a team and a group,” Woods said. “We cherish all those moments.”
The defending WAC champions certainly made a lasting impression on Woods and Cherry, but it was more than basketball that inspired them to join GCU. It was the Lopes’ connection and chemistry, a thread that made their new team feel like an old family.
“The culture is the main thing,” Cherry said.