Johnson ready to play bigger role for MSU women

 

Adam Minichino

 

 

STARKVILLE -- Roshunda Johnson is more than ready. 

 

After a change of scenery and plenty of obstacles to overcome, Johnson will be primed and prepared at 2 p.m. today to kick off her final collegiate season when the Mississippi State women's basketball team holds its first practice of the 2017-18 campaign. 

 

"I know what is ahead of me and the expectations that we have and the team has, so I am ready," Johnson said. "It is going to be a good season. It is all about hard work and knowing that we have to come back better than we were last year." 

 

MSU coach Vic Schaefer feels Johnson, a 5-foot-7 senior guard, is in the best shape of her life and figures to be a key component of what could be the deepest backcourt in the nation. Johnson is expected to team with seniors Morgan William, Victoria Vivians, and Blair Schaefer, junior Jazzmun Holmes, and freshman Myah Taylor. Redshirt sophomore guard Jordan Danberry, a transfer from Arkansas, will be eligible to play in January. 

 

"She looks great," coach Schaefer said. "She has worked awfully hard in the summer and in the offseason. She ran a sub-6:30 mile Wednesday morning, so she has worked hard." 

 

Schaefer said also Johnson made "a bunch of shots" in five-on-five workouts in skill development earlier in the week, so he is excited about what a healthy Johnson can add to the equation. 

 

"I think Ro when she is at the top of her game really adds a different dimension to our team," Schaefer said. "Her and Blair (Schaefer) have great chemistry together, as you saw in the NCAA tournament. That has continued through the summer and into the fall. They have a knack for finding each other." 

 

Following her transfer from Oklahoma State, Johnson earned immediate praise from Schaefer, who said she often was the best player on the floor in practice.  

 

Last season, Johnson averaged 6.3 points per game in 13.1 minutes (33 games, nine starts). She missed a game against Missouri late in the season to be with her ailing mother in Arkansas. She returned to score all of her 17 points in the second half of an 86-41 victory against Vanderbilt at Humphrey Coliseum. 

 

Johnson, who battled a bone bruise in her ankle earlier in the season, said after the game that it was getting easier for her to adapt to her role. She said it was a matter of finding what the Bulldogs needed from her and going out and doing it. 

 

Johnson did just that in MSU's postseason push. She logged double-digit minutes in a stretch from the regular-season finale against Tennessee to the NCAA tournament first-round game against Troy. Against Troy, Johnson earned the first of three-consecutive starts in the NCAA tournament and scored 13 points. 

 

Despite playing less than 14 minutes per game, Johnson's 42.9-percent field goal shooting percentage was second among guards on the team to Morgan William. Her 43.8-percent 3-point shooting mark was first on the team if you discount Ketara Chapel, who made 3 of 5 3-pointers (60 percent). 

 

"It was quite difficult," Johnson said when asked about her ups and downs physically last season. "I just had to know I had a team that was looking at me as if I needed to come back and I needed to figure out a way through all of the adversity that was happening. It was hard, but I knew I could get through it with the team and coaches I have." 

 

At OSU, Johnson averaged 8.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.8 steals and helped the Cowgirls to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances. She was a member of the Big 12 Conference's All-Freshman team in 2014 and the league's all-tournament team in 2015.  

 

As a sophomore in 2014-15, Johnson started 31 of 32 games and averaged 34.9 minutes to help lead OSU to a 20-12 record. She was third on the team in scoring (11.3 points per game) and first in assists (3.8 per game, seventh in the Big 12). She also was third in the league in steals (2.4) and seventh in assist/turnover ratio (1.59).  

 

Schaefer said this week lineups likely will change this season because there is so much depth on the roster. The Bulldogs could be most fluid at guard, where Schaefer has shown a willingness to go with who is hot at the time and who is practicing the best. 

 

Now that she is 100 percent, Johnson said she is anxious to be a bigger part of things in her final season. 

 

"We know the seniors from last year had a big impact," Johnson said. "The seniors (this year) have to come ready (and) be prepared and be able to push the whole team." 

 

Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor

 

Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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