Point Park Globe

Women’s basketball transfer focused on being a team player

Written By Michael Richter

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Natasha Moss, a team captain and small forward/center on the Point Park women’s basketball team, quickly noticed that new point guard Kelly Johnson, who was named Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (KIAC) women’s basketball player of the week,  is always willing to help fellow teammates. Moss observed Johnson giving tips and helping the team’s other two point guards, Shaniya Rivers and Alexis Lyers, develop a better understanding of the point guard position. 

This past September, amidst the early practices of the Women Pioneers, Johnson decided to start mentoring Rivers, who is a freshman. 

In her first season at Point Park, Johnson has already established herself as a leader. Johnson transferred to Point Park this past summer from Clarion University, where she averaged 13.7 points per game in the 2013-14 season at the position of point guard as a redshirt freshman. She is the Pioneers’ starting point guard for the 2014-15 season. 

“I am the extended coach on the floor,” Johnson said. 

In her time on the Mount Lebanon girl’s basketball team in high school, Johnson formed a strong bond with the coaching staff.  She wanted to form a similar bond at the collegiate level, but did not build a good relationship with the coaching staff at Clarion.

When Johnson first started discussing with Point Park women’s basketball head coach Tony Grenek about the prospect of her playing under him, she admired Grenek’s passion for the game. Grenek took an interest in Johnson as a person, unlike other coaches. Johnson likened Grenek to her high school basketball coach – she believed a strong relationship could be created between them. 

“Coach Grenek was the biggest influence on me coming to Point Park,” Johnson said. 

However, Johnson almost did not enroll at Point Park. This past summer, when she was deciding among schools, she narrowed her choices down to Point Park and the University of Charleston. Johnson made the decision to commit to the University of Charleston. The following night after her decision, Grenek called Johnson. After she told him that she had committed to a different school, she easily discerned the utter disappointment in his voice. 

“I realized that Coach Grenek had wanted me more than any other coach who had recruited me before,” Johnson said. 

Once Johnson fully believed that Grenek was the prototype head coach she had been searching for, she changed her mind and committed to Point Park. 

“Coach Grenek always says he would do anything for me, which reminds me a lot of my high school coach,” Johnson said. 

Johnson graduated high school in 2012, where she was a four-year starter and was part of three state championship teams. 

Johnson was the MVP of the 2010-11 PIAA Class AAAA championship – a game in which she scored 13 points and secured the game’s final rebound. 

“With a few seconds left in the game and my team up by a single point, one of the other team’s players shot the ball and missed, then I tipped the rebound out to one of my teammates,” Johnson said. 

In her short time at Point Park, Johnson has made a big impact. She has already developed chemistry with her teammates. 

“Shaniya [Rivers] is very coachable, and we already have great communication,” Johnson said.

Rivers believes Johnson has helped her become a better player.

“Kelly has taught me how to get open with the ball and how to control the game with the ball in my possession,” Rivers said.

Johnson helps Rivers with the mental aspect of the game too. 

“Kelly has helped me with my confidence a lot,” Rivers said. 

Johnson is very vocal on the court; she ensures her teammates are positioned correctly, utilizing her voice to make team adjustments. 

“Kelly always directs people where to go on the court,” Moss said.

When speaking to Johnson’s teammates, they will characterize her as a leader. 

“She is a field general,” Moss said. “She is the quarterback of our team.” 

This season, Johnson is focused on winning a national championship, and she hopes the Pioneers will go undefeated. She does not possess any individual goals. 

“I don’t care about my stats as long as we are winning.  I don’t care how many points I score,” Johnson said.

After this season, Johnson is eligible to play for the Pioneers for two more seasons. Next year, she is eligible for graduation. She is unsure at this time if she will play basketball for the entirety of her eligibility. 

Proven to be a competent mentor, it’s unsurprising that Johnson is an education major. Johnson yearns to be a teacher. 

“At some point, I would like to teach and play basketball overseas,” she said. 

 
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