Virginia Johnson leads youth movement for Bluder's Bunch

BY BEN SCHUFF | JULY 22, 2011 7:20 AM

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Virginia Johnson says she's just trying to hang in there.

But her play in the Game Time League this summer suggests she's doing much more than that.

"I'm just trying to hang, to be honest with you," Johnson said. "Just trying to hold on."

It would seem like the Iowa City native is being modest, though, because she is showing the kind of promise that many would expect from a four-star recruit.

During the Game Time's four-game regular season, Johnson was the league's third-highest scorer, with an average of 20.3 points per game. The incoming Iowa freshman trailed only former WNBA draft pick Kachine Alexander (21.5 points per game) and Game Time's No. 1-overall pick, Kamille Wahlin (22.3 points per game), in scoring.

Johnson has also been a rebounding machine. The 18-year-old led the league in collecting missed shots, averaging 12.5 rebounds per game.

So yes, it appears Johnson is holding on just fine — and her fellow Hawkeyes have noticed.

"She can take over when she wants to," said Iowa guard Megan Considine, who played alongside Johnson on the Coralville Hy-Vee squad. "One time, our coach just got in her face and told her to start shooting it because no one can guard her. She did and had about 20 [points] right after that."

Being a premier scorer and rebounder is nothing new to Johnson. During her senior year at City High, her 23 points per game was second-best in the state, and her 10.1 rebounds per game placed her third in the Mississippi Valley Conference.

What is new, Johnson said, is playing a game in which she isn't always one of the tallest players on the court.

That situation presented itself to the 6-1 forward on July 20, when she faced 6-5 Iowa center Morgan Johnson in the first round of the Game Time playoffs.

Virginia Johnson struggled at times against her Black and Gold teammate, finishing with 10 points and a season-low 6 rebounds. The game marked the first time all season she didn't grab double-digit boards, but Morgan Johnson said her young teammate shouldn't feel discouraged.

"She just needs to learn to use a pump-fake a little more to get people like me — who want to block shots — off their feet," Morgan Johnson said.

Playing against taller, college-level competition was a main reason Virginia Johnson said she jumped at the chance to play in the Game Time.

Her athleticism has gone a long way in helping her adapt to the new height differences, and it impresses all of Johnson's teammates.

"Some of the time, you look at her and you're just like, 'How in the world did she just do that?' " Morgan Johnson said. "She looks so smooth, and it looks so good. She has a very athletic body, and she knows how to use it really, really well."

Hy-Vee teammate and fellow incoming Iowa freshman Samantha Logic agreed.

"She's super athletic — like, insanely athletic," she said. "That's the first thing you notice about her. She'll jump, and you think you still have a shot, but she's still coming down."

Considine said she's looking forward to seeing Johnson wreak havoc on the Big Ten in her freshman campaign. She said the young post player just needs a little teaching to become a very special player.

"She has so much potential, she doesn't even realize it yet," Considine said. "Once she gets under Coach [Lisa] Bluder and knows what she needs to do, she's going to have a big impact on our team.
"She has all the talent in the world."

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