Lady Ducks Report: Waiting is the hardest part…

FishDuck Staff FishWrap, FishWrap Archive

It’s no secret that Amanda Johnson did not have the senior season that she and Ducks fans hoped she’d have as a major impact on the floor for the women’s basketball team, and it was all due to a pesky injury. She missed 11 games during her senior campaign with a fractured thumb.

Waiting for Amanda…

When she returned to the floor, she averaged 18.4 points and 9.7 rebounds per game while shooting 44.1 percent.

Despite missing significant time, Johnson recorded 10 double-doubles, 17 double-figure scoring games and seven 20-point efforts. She has led the Ducks in scoring on a team-best 14 occasions, and also led the Ducks on the glass 15 times.

With Johnson and fellow talented senior Jasmin Holiday both having suffered from injury this year, Oregon as a team struggled.

Waiting for Amanda…

The squad finished ninth in the conference at 15-16 (7-11). While not having reached the conference minimum of 75 percent of games played in order to qualify in the league’s standings because of her thumb injury, Johnson still ranked second in scoring and fifth in rebounding when compared to her peers. However, for the Ducks talented forward, it was still a remarkable individual effort, despite the uncooperative thumb.

For starters, Johnson was named the 2012 Toyo Tires Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott made the announcement at the Pacific Life Pac-12 Tournament back in March.

Winning this award is quite an accomplishment. The award was established to honor collegiate student-athletes that are standouts both academically and in their sports discipline. The athletes are chosen solely by the members of conference’s sponsors and not athletes, coaches, or conference officials.

Even with the rare award, it turned out that Amanda Johnson was not finished receiving awards and honorable mentions. She was named to the All-Pac-12 team after a vote by the league’s coaches. It marked the first time in her four-year career she earned the recognition and as a result, became just the second Ducks women’s basketball player in program history to earn first-team Pac-12 All-Academic honors on three occasions. Stefanie Kasperski (1988-90) was the first women’s basketball player at Oregon to win the award.

For the last three seasons, Johnson has been awarded the Harry Ritchie Scholar Athlete Award which is given to an Oregon women’s basketball player for her athletic and scholastic achievements. Johnson was also one of 10 finalists for the Lowe’s Senior Class Award (national award).

Like most Duck athletes, Amanda Johnson is not attending Oregon only to play sports. She competes equally as hard in the classroom as she did on the hardwood. Johnson is currently a graduate student earning a master’s degree in counseling psychology and human services and currently holds a 4.16 grade point average.

She was awarded her undergraduate degree Summa Cum Laude, graduating in the top two percent of her class with a double major in psychology and sociology following her sophomore year in the summer of 2010.

So not only is she fast on the court, but after graduating college in less than four years, she’s equally as fast and lethal in the classroom as well. With her incredible skill in scholastics and athletics, there was no question Amanda Johnson could do whatever she wanted, but she knew basketball was the only way to go.

The WNBA. Waiting for Amanda…

So with her final year of collegiate basketball complete, she turned her tremendous focus and basketball talent to the 2012 WNBA Draft along with fellow Duck teammate Jasmin Holiday. The draft was held Monday April 16 at the ESPN Studios in Bristol, Connecticut.  This draft was one of the most talented drafts in recent years for the WNBA and specifically for Pac-12 players.

Since the inaugural draft in 1997, 71 players have been selected from Pac-12 teams.

There were four total Pac-12 players selected in this year’s WNBA Draft. USC had two players selected; Jacki Gemelos and Briana Gilbreath both being picked in the third round, while Stanford’s Nnemkadi Ogwumike was selected the number one overall pick in the draft by the Los Angeles Sparks.

Amanda Johnson was the fourth and final Pac-12 player drafted. She was selected in the third round by the Phoenix Mercury as the 33rd overall pick. Johnson is the first women’s basketball player from Oregon to be drafted since Catherine Kraayeveld in 2005.

Furthermore, Johnson is the sixth Oregon women’s basketball to be drafted by the WNBA following Catherine Kraayeveld (2005), Shaquala Williams (2003), Edniesha Curry (2002) Jenny Mowe (2001) and Angelina Wolvert (2001). Kraayeveld has played seven years in the WNBA and was a member of the Atlanta Dream during the 2011 season.

Amanda Johnson is truly a special player, and Oregon was extremely lucky to have her, but with the injuries, you’re asking; just how special of a player was she and why are waiting?

Johnson is the only player in Oregon women’s basketball program history to be named a three-time Academic All-American. She was selected to the Capital One Academic All-America first team in 2011 and 2012 after receiving second-team honors in 2010. Johnson is only the second Pac-12 player to earn three Academic All-America awards, following Oregon State’s Chelle Flamoe from 1987-89.

She is also the only player in Ducks women’s hoops history to rank in the all-time top five of points (5th), rebounds (4th), steals (195, 5th) and three-pointers (168, 5th). In addition, she totaled 30 double-doubles, 75 double-figure scoring games, three 30-point games, 21 20-point games, 41 times leading the club in scoring and 71 occasions leading the team in rebounding.

Johnson now heads to the valley of the sun and she could not have been drafted by a better team. Phoenix is the perfect situation and system for her and her style of play. She goes to a Mercury team that finished 19-15 and made to the playoffs in 2011.

This team in Phoenix loves to play at home in the U.S. Airways Center. Last season the Mercury went 11-6 at home and look to improve on that record this year. More importantly for Amanda Johnson, she becomes a part of a roster that is loaded with talent and has years of playoff and championship experience that will give her the best opportunity to learn.

Johnson’s learning process will start with second year Phoenix head coach, Corey Gaines. Gaines is perfect for Johnson because he runs an up-tempo style offense that he learned from current Ducks women’s basketball coach Paul Westhead, who coached Johnson for four years and coached the Mercury during the 2006-2007 season. Corey Gaines was Westhead’s number one assistant with the Mercury.

Johnson’s growing and learning experience only gets better from there. She will get to play with, and be under the tutelage of three of the WNBA’s best players; Diana Taurasi, Penny Taylor and Nakia Sanford. Taylor is a 10-year WNBA veteran who has won two WNBA championships (2007, 2009) with the Mercury.

Diana Taurasi is also a WNBA legend that also won two WNBA championships as a teammate of Penny Taylor in Phoenix. She has been named a WNBA All-Star five times throughout her career and was named the WNBA Finals MVP in 2009.

Nakia Sanford will help groom Amanda Johnson at the forward position. In her nine years as player in the WNBA, Sanford has racked up more than 1,750 points and 1,250 rebounds in her career.

As the sun sets on Amanda Johnson’s time in Eugene, she begins her professional basketball career in Phoenix where she can learn from some of the league’s best players and continue with an offense she has ran for the last four years as a Duck.

The Phoenix Mercury last won a WNBA title in 2009. With the addition of Duck’s star Amanda Johnson it shouldn’t be too much longer before the trophy comes back to Phoenix.

Waiting for Amanda…

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