National player of the week – Croup’s Corner

Written By Josh Croup, Sports Columnist

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One year ago, Kelly Johnson was playing basketball for the Clarion Eagles as a redshirt freshman. Today, she is carrying the Point Park women’s basketball team.

Johnson was named the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Division II Women’s Basketball Player of the Week last week after leading the Pioneers to two conference road victories. She was one of the nominees for the national player of the week honor after her selection as Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (KIAC) Player of the Week.

The 5-8 point guard out of Mt. Lebanon High School averaged 32 points, 8 assists, 6.5 steals and 5 rebounds per game on the road against Carlow and Indiana University (IU) East. Johnson led the Pioneers with 17 points in the second half against IU East, which helped erase a 48-40 halftime deficit to give her team the 103-79 victory.

“If she’s on, we’re all on,” junior guard Alexa Xenakis said about her teammate. “I would trust her with two seconds left with the ball, and I know it’s going to go in.”

And this year, she has been on.

She is a big reason why the Pioneers are eighth in the country in scoring offense per game with her 17.5 points and 4.46 assists per game. The point guard’s defensive play also fits right in with head coach Tony Grenek’s defensive- minded philosophy. Her 3.9 steals per game is fourth in NAIA DII women’s basketball.

Johnson is a proven scorer and winner. At Clarion, she led the team with 355 total points and was second on the team with 13.7 points per game. She was a four-year starter at Mt. Lebanon who collected three state titles in her career and was the MVP of the state championship game in 2011 after scoring 13 points to lead her team to a 47-46 victory over Archbishop Carroll.

Johnson is a winner and joined Point Park squad this year to do just that. She stepped up as a leader on the team, despite only playing in her first season at Point Park. When sophomore center Sam Weir went down with an injury just five games into the season, Johnson took over as the go-to player, and her play as of late proves that.

The season has now entered the home stretch. The Pioneers close out the season with two home games this week against Carlow Wednesday and IU East Saturday for Senior Day. Johnson and the Pioneers will enter the conference tournament with the hope of returning to the national tournament for the fourth consecutive year.