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HIGHLAND — Johnny Carrothers is not immune to the chatter.

His little sister, Jessica Carrothers, scored 22 points in her first high school game for Crown Point, and her standout performances didn’t stop there. During her freshman campaign, Jessica Carrothers averaged a team-high 21.6 points, a team-high 3.1 assists, a team-high 4.7 steals and 5.5 rebounds.

She also led the Bulldogs on a 28-game winning streak before they finally lost to Hamilton Southeastern in the Class 4A LaPorte Semistate Championship. Despite missing out on the program's fifth semistate title and first since 1997, Jessica Carrothers undoubtedly established herself as one of the top prep basketball players in the Region.

When Johnny Carrothers’ classmates tease him or his teammates at Andrean taunt him regarding his sister’s early success, he knows their jokes about who is the best player in the family are just as funny as they are valid.

“I remember a couple games into this season, Jess was putting up big numbers,” Johnny Carrothers said with a laugh. “My dad, I think, brought it up to me. He goes, ‘You know when you play Lake Central or someone like that they’re going to start chanting, “Your sister is better!”’ So, of course, I couldn’t let that happen.”

Out of all of the major statistical categories, Johnny Carrothers only edges Jessica Carrothers in assists, but his approach throughout his final season has been just as effective. The senior is averaging 13.8 points, a team-high 3.2 assists, a team-high 1.2 steals and 4.2 rebounds per game. His steady campaign has helped guide the 59ers to 20 wins — their most victories since the 2012-13 season — and into the Class 2A state final for the first time in 19 years.

Throughout the postseason, Johnny Carrothers has raised his level of play and is averaging 17.8 points per game while shooting 52.8 percent from the field and 75 percent from the free-throw line. The senior only had one 20-point game during the regular season but has reached 20 points in three of Andrean’s six postseason games, including a 20-point outing against Frankton in the Lafayette Jefferson Semistate Championship.

The 59ers squeaked past the Eagles in double overtime and after shedding tears of joy, Johnny Carrothers wasted no time reminding his younger sister that his team made it one step further than hers. While being interviewed by several media members, Johnny Carrothers received a big hug from Jessica Carrothers and before she let go he shared a glimpse of their sibling rivalry.

“I just can’t wait to rub this in my sister’s face,” Johnny Carrothers said to the reporters with Jessica Carrothers draped on his shoulder.

Jessica Carrothers let out a big smile — appreciating the brashness of her big brother’s joke — and kept embracing him. She has been in the stands watching Johnny Carrothers lead his team on a long postseason run, just as he did for her when Crown Point raised sectional and regional trophies. And although she wishes the Bulldogs could have made their first strip to Indianapolis in 22 years and plans on getting there before her prep career is over, she’s grateful to be heading to Bankers Life Fieldhouse as a lifelong supporter of her brother.

“I’m really excited,” Jessica Carrothers said. “Before his games I always get really nervous, even when they’re warming up. But after his sectional (championship) game, after his regional game and after his semistate game, we took a picture. I held his piece of the net, so I really want a picture with his state net.”

Building the foundation

Johnny and Jessica Carrothers have made a name for their family as standout basketball players, but competing on the hardwood wasn’t their first competitive endeavor. Before lacing up their sneakers, both siblings began motocross racing when they were 4 years old and have a couple of large trophies to show for it.

Mark Carrothers, Johnny and Jessica Carrothers' father, said he got his children involved because he himself used to race. But as the years went by he said the sport became too expensive for the family, so the Carrothers made a switch.

“About eight years ago we went into basketball, and I was kind of detached from the game,” said Mark Carrothers, who grew up playing in East Chicago. “But as the kids started to play, I got involved again. Before, I used to hang out with my friends a lot, and as they grew up I just started hanging out with my kids. We’d work out, go watch games and basketball just became a part of our family.”

Mark Carrothers has taken his son to the Big Ten Tournament, and he’s shared similar bonding experiences with his daughter. Hours after watching Johnny Carrothers push Andrean into the state title game for the first time since 2000, Mark and Jessica Carrothers were side by side watching Duke and star freshman Zion Williamson take on Florida State in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament championship and discussing ways for her to improve.

“He always tries to keep us prepared so that we’re always ready,” Jessica Carrothers said. “And he always reminds me that I need to work harder.”

Both siblings credit their father with introducing them to the game and teaching them how to be multi-faceted players. Jessica and Johnny Carrothers’ playing styles aren’t defined by their athleticism or height but rather their fundamentals and polished skill sets — the product of numerous hours in the gym.

The family trio has played countless games of 21 at the Lincoln Community Center in Highland — in most cases, Jessica Carrothers claims she is victorious — but what has separated them from their peers is their dedication to the details and intricacies of the game that can sometimes be mundane and monotonous.

“Ever since we started training, we’d go into the gym and start off with 15 minutes of ball-handling, cone work and then mid-range shooting,” Johnny Carrrothers said. “I think it took maybe a year or two before he actually started letting us shoot 3s.”

Mark Carrothers refuses to take full credit for Jessica and Johnny Carrothers’ success. Most of what he’s taught them has come from Reggie Brooks, CEO of Region Elite Basketball, and Chris Kostouros, founder of CAPS Basketball Clinic. Those two individuals have worked extensively with Johnny and Jessica Carrothers and gave Mark Carrothers the blueprint on what specific drills to implement during training sessions.

However, Mark Carrothers admits it got to a point where he was overworking his children.

“I knew that I was pushing John too hard, and about a year ago I took a finger off of his development,” Mark Carrothers said. “I was starting to lose him as a son.”

Johnny Carrothers said his father’s obsession with basketball began to make him look at the sport like a chore rather than a game, but ever since Mark Carrothers relaxed a bit their relationship has changed for the better.

“Now it’s just reminders like, ‘You got a big game coming up.’ Whereas back then he’d come over and be like, ‘Let’s go. We’re going to the gym,’" Johnny Carrothers said. "I didn’t really have a choice. So I think now it’s more so about me wanting to get better. And he’s told me many times, ‘It can’t be my dream. It has to be yours.’ And so I think that’s been the deciding factor on how my game has developed.”

Honoring every sacrifice

The increased attention Johnny and Jessica Carrothers have garnered during the 2018-19 season can be attributed to their individual and team success. While leading their programs on deep postseason runs, the siblings have both earned all-state recognition from the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association.

Johnny Carrothers has received small school all-state honors, while Jessica Carrothers earned a nod for the underclass all-state Supreme 15. But for as solid as they are on the court, both of their coaches pointed out that the way they carry themselves precedes all of their stats and achievements.

“You don’t get here, to the state title game, without character,” Andrean boys basketball coach Brad Stangel said. “How Johnny practices every day, how he works, if the young kids that are in this program right now don’t take that from him, they’ve missed an opportunity to learn from one of the better leaders I’ve ever been around.”

Crown Point girls basketball coach Chris Seibert shared many of the same sentiments in regards to Jessica Carrothers’ demeanor and team-first mentality. She posted four 30-point games as a freshman, but Seibert said he never felt like she was self-centered.

“She just enjoys playing basketball and enjoys being a kid,” Seibert said. “I don’t think you’d notice any difference in her, whether it was at the beginning of the year when no one really knew about her to the end of the year with all of the success she had. She still works extremely hard and wants to get better.”

Mark Carrothers aspires to set a good example for his children. As does their mother, Glenda Torress-Carrothers. Mark Carrothers and Glenda Torress-Carrothers have been divorced since 2010 and between long hours at work, they still find a way to be there for their children.

Torres-Carrothers acknowledged that it would be a little easier if both of her children attended the same school. But the family opted to pick the school that would be ideal academically and athletically for each child, and as a result Torres-Carrothers simply does her best. She shows up to games when she can, and her children understand when she can’t.

As an employee at the Horseshoe Hammond casino, Torres-Carrothers often works 6 p.m. to 2:30 a.m., and she is also a part-time caregiver during the day. Mark Carrothers has a more conventional work schedule as an estimator for Gluth Brothers Roofing in Hammond, which allows him to attend more games and events, but even if Torres-Carrothers isn’t there it doesn’t take long for word to travel.

“The achievements that they have today, oh my goodness I’m so proud,” Torres-Carrothers said. “Even at my job when they see the newspaper, they can’t believe that Johnny is my son. Some of them also know about Jessica and they say, ‘It looks like your daughter is better,’ and I say, ‘No, my son is good, too.’ And now it’s his turn.”

Torres-Carrothers said she will be taking the trip to Indianapolis to watch her son play in the biggest game of the year, and Johnny Carrothers is pleased to know that his entire family will be there to support him. He doesn’t believe a state championship would be within reach if it wasn’t for his sister’s love, his father’s dedication and his mother’s sacrifice.

Now all he has to do is finish it off with a victory over Linton-Stockton.

“I don’t even know how long I’ve been dreaming about this moment.” Johnny Carrothers said. “To bring back a state championship to Andrean, as a 59er in the school’s 59th year, I can’t even explain it. That’d just be amazing.”

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Sports Reporter

James Boyd is the Lake County prep sports reporter for The Times. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a proud native of Romeoville, Illinois. Before anything else, his main goal in life is to spread love and light.