Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Glory Johnson: It's Your Time (GoVolsXtra)
Tennessee's Glory Johnson saw her scoring and rebounding numbers last season mirror the numbers of her freshman season.
Glory Johnson wasn't offering powdery beaches or shimmering waters.
The summer getaway the Tennessee women's basketball player presented to her friends involved a gym and a chance to help her upgrade her game.
Selling a trip to the Yukon Territory might be easier. Or so Johnson feared. But her buddies are coming anyway, some from out of town to stay with her.
"I thought it was going to be a lot harder,'' she said. "All you have to do is ask. And, for the most part, real, true friends, they'll do whatever you ask them to do."
And Johnson really, truly needs their help. The former Webb School star and high school All-American is entering the offseason before her junior year. The 6-foot-3 forward essentially has reached halftime of her collegiate career. And just like a coaching staff huddling outside a locker room between halves, she's gathering a summer support crew to make some necessary adjustments.
Johnson began last season by scoring in double figures in 10 of the first 12 games. She looked like an All-American in scoring 21 points and grabbing 12 rebounds at Middle Tennessee State on Nov. 25. As late as Jan. 28 she was averaging nearly 13 points and nine rebounds per game while shooting 51.4 percent from the floor. Yet she finished with scoring and rebounding averages (10.1, 7.7) that virtually mirrored her freshman season (10.2, 7.1). And her accuracy sank to 45.8 percent. In the process, she lost her starting spot.
"One of the things Glory Johnson has to decide,'' Lady Vols assistant coach Dean Lockwood said, "she's got to decide how serious she's going to be about really, really taking her skill set down the road farther."
Johnson's fellow juniors-to-be face the same decision. Their ranks will grow to seven next season with forward Vicki Baugh returning with two seasons of eligibility. She was redshirted last season while recovering from multiple knee surgeries.
The juniors' progression from a rocky 22-11 first season was quantified by their part in 32 victories as well as SEC regular-season and tournament championships. A 77-62 upset loss to Baylor in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament, though, affirmed that a steeper price must be paid.
Lockwood equated the investment to one of life's essentials.
"Do you want to be in a Final Four and have a chance to play for a championship almost as bad as you want to take your next breath?'' he asked. "That's how serious it has to be."
Lockwood believes that the growth of the women's game has raised the offseason stakes. He conceived a vivid image of a player pulling out a hammer and chisel, as if she was sculpting her skills from marble. He said that a plan must be formulated and executed with "an unbelievable passionate purpose."
"To do that, you can't be casual,'' he said. "You can't say ho-hum. I'll shoot 30 minutes a day and expect that to happen anymore."