Morrow Field House is buzzing and it’s almost time for tip-off. Another opportunity in the game she loves was here for Jamiyah Johnson. Reflection is key in any aspect of life, but for Johnson it’s even more so for basketball.
Reflection for her is looking back at the things she didn’t accomplish. For her it was things that she didn’t get to do at Davis & Elkins College (D&E). While there for her first four years, she accomplished a lot.
As just a freshman there, she appeared in all 28 games they played and, more impressively she grabbed 120 rebounds. A year later, she grabbed 212 and started 17 of the 27 games she appeared in. But her start at D&E wasn’t what she envisioned.
“It was rocky at first, but it got better as the years went along and I was doing better in freshman and sophomore years, but my junior year was like a breath of fresh air,” Johnson said. “That year I really started to just do what I’m doing and found a love for the game, and I just had fun with it.”
In the 2019-2020 season Johnson had her breakout year. She racked up accolade after accolade. D&E had just joined the Mountain East Conference (MEC) and in their first season there, Johnson helped them make their mark.
She averaged almost 19 points and 15 rebounds a game. She also notched a double-double in 24 straight games and had 26 overall. Both of those tied for the most National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II women’s basketball.
Then as the story always goes, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the entire world and shut down sports. The break shut down the entirety of the sports world for some time. Now approaching the two-year mark of when it all happened, Johnson is still playing ball.
While The Rock made the decision to not play any basketball in spring 2021, D&E did continue to play. In their COVID-19 season, Johnson posted her 1,000 career point at D&E, but unfortunately her career there didn’t end how she would’ve liked.
“I had actually gotten sick with COVID, and it took away three games, and I just knew that I couldn’t go out like that,” Johnson said. “It took away from me being able to possibly be the all-time leader in rebounds, and I was kind of upset because I had timed it out perfectly, but it didn’t work out.”
After the season, she decided that it was time for a change. She looked for other options and, with help, eventually decided on Slippery Rock University (SRU). She wanted to come here and play under Coach Robert McGraw, who took an interest in her. The change was immediate when it came to the differences between D&E and Slippery Rock.
“The campus itself is just very big. D&E is this small college with like 900 people max, but I came here, and I wasn’t used to everything being so far away from me,” Johnson said.
The atmosphere was completely different. Johnson went from a school that had just around 800 students to a place that boasts roughly 8,000 more students.
The focus was still basketball though. She was able to transfer as a graduate student and decided to use her last year of eligibility here. But she was coming to a team that in 2019, didn’t perform as well as they had hoped. SRU women’s basketball amassed a record of just 8-20 that year, but this season, 2021-2022, they already have more wins.
“I was honestly just looking to play, but it means a lot to me because I’ve been able to be part of a big turn around here and I’ll forever be grateful for it,” Johnson said.
Now she’s playing with Daeja Quick, and the duo has helped to lead the team to an early record of 10-9. The Rock started out at 10-3, but just like the last two years of play for Johnson, COVID-19 has disrupted some already set plans.
The team had to take an eight-day hiatus from practicing and playing due to a COVID-19 outbreak. Since the break, they haven’t won a game, but to Johnson the mindset is the same. Just go out and keep playing.
“That break definitely took a toll on us, and I think we’ve been trying to build ourselves back up and I don’t think we’re at 100% again quite yet,” Johnson said. “But I think that we’re going to turn it around soon and give you guys what you saw from us earlier this season.”
With nine games left this season, that’s exactly what they’ll look to do. Nonetheless, Johnson’s impact can’t be understated. Johnson has already posted a double-double 17 times this season. The only time she didn’t was against Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) when she had seven points and 17 rebounds.
Johnson has been a big part of trying to help bring The Rock back to the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) tournament. In the end, it is one of her goals for this season. She came here to help bring home a PSAC title.
The duo of Johnson and Quick have helped bring two important aspects to the forefront of their game: passing and rebounding. To McGraw and Johnson alike, it’s a reason they could walk away with that title.
“My biggest goal would definitely be to win the PSAC, that would be great, and it would be so awesome to experience,” Johnson said.
She also has gained a role that was unbeknownst to her until recently: being a role model.
“I love when people tell me that they look up to me, and [it’s cool knowing] younger people look up to me,” Johnson said. “I’m just doing what I love, and you’re someone out there looking up to me, I’m no one special, I just love the game of basketball and want to be the best at it.”
When things do eventually come to a close though, Johnson wants to be remembered for a long time. In her words, she wants to be remembered by leaving a little bit of “sparkle” everywhere she goes.