When you cover as much high school basketball as I have over the years, a lot of names run through your head.
Some of them stick, some of them don’t. Some simply are unforgettable.
One of those people who fit in the latter category was Billy Rhymes.
Billy Rhymes could fill it up, as they say. He was one of the best shooters this state has ever seen. I would like to have seen him in a three-point contest.
He helped lead Phoenix Union to a Class 5A state runner-up finish in his senior year, 1982, shortly before the school closed. The Coyotes were coached that year by Billy’s brother, Argie, who went on to Phoenix Carl Hayden after Phoenix Union closed and has been there ever since.
Billy, a guard, could shoot from long range, short range and everywhere in between.
He went on to play at Washington State before returning to the Phoenix area to get married and raise five children, most of them involved in basketball, part of the Rhymes basketball family that stretches across the Valley to this day.
At Phoenix Union, he was part of a group of players who were key components of the Phoenix Union High School District’s heyday.
In addition to Billy, the Coyotes during those years had Randy and Stevie Colter, Keith Jones, Cecil Scroggins, Carl Marshall and the late Rodney Johns. It truly was an amazing time.
Billy’s daughter, Hailee, played for Phoenix St. Mary’s a few years ago before going on to play collegiately at Texas-Arlington.
One night, after a St. Mary’s game, Billy came up to me to say hello. It’s moments like that, when an athlete you used to cover acknowledges you, that make this media business worthwhile.
So it was with great sadness that I learned on Wednesday (Aug. 7) of Billy’s death on Aug. 1 at the age of 48. A life celebration will be held Thursday (Aug. 8) at 11 a.m. at the Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church at 1401 E. Jefferson St. in Phoenix.
Thoughts are with Billy’s immediate family, Argie and the rest of the family.