Hawkeye center Johnson prepares for last season in Black and Gold


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Iowa women’s basketball head coach Lisa Bluder didn’t hesitate. Not a bit. Bluder said, with complete confidence, that Morgan Johnson is the best center in the Big Ten.

“Morgan Johnson, I think, is one of the best centers in the United States,” she said during the Iowa women’s basketball team’s media day. “I love coaching her … She’s wonderful to have on the court.”

Johnson, a senior, made just under 55 percent of her shots a year ago, which was good enough for seventh in the country and best in the Big Ten among all positions. Johnson was also 26th in the country in blocked shots, averaging 2.3 per contest. That stat was good for second in the conference.

The expectations have risen because of last year’s stats for Johnson. She knows this. The Platte City, Mo., native was humbled by the praise Bluder has given her. Johnson understands that last year was a big year for her, and she’s ready to do even better.

“Seeing those numbers is a great thing. But you always want to do better,” Johnson said. “That’s just me being the perfectionist I am.”

Johnson is one of this year’s cocaptains for the Hawkeyes, and she knows she has to help instill confidence in the rest of the team. Because she shot so well last year, she said she could be taking even more shots this coming season.

But that won’t be the only thing pushing Johnson this season. She mentioned this season could be the final year she plays basketball completely. Her body has taken a toll over the last four years. She noted how her knees had been frustrating her, pushing her to take a year off to help regain her health.

Johnson also talked of pursuing medical school, pending an acceptance letter — “We’ll see if that happens, or not. If it doesn’t, no big deal,” she said — as well as looking into opportunities to go overseas and do developing-country medicine for a year.

The latter, Johnson said, may be something she wants to eventually do once she’s finished with school. But ultimately, her doors will be kept open so she can “explore life.”

But she has business to attend to on the court before she can walk through those doors.

“It means leave it all on the table,” Johnson said. “There’s nothing I can hold back now.”

Her final season comes with a treat: She and Bethany Doolittle will get to play alongside each other on the court this year. Doolittle, who called Johnson her mentor last season when she played center, will be making the switch to power forward this year.

Putting Doolittle in the 4-spot this season will add versatility to the Hawkeyes, along with some height. This gives Bluder more room to work with different schemes and plays, knowing Doolittle will be able to post up near the paint.

The transition has been “pretty smooth” so far, Johnson said. The amount of different looks the Hawkeyes are capable of showing now will help to put opposing defenses on their heels, making Iowa’s attack more potent than previous seasons.

Doolittle’s confidence this season will do wonders, no matter which position she’s at. She said she has Johnson, who helped to train her all of last year, to thank because of that.

“The mentality, really,” Doolittle said. “It’s the mindset of always being positive and giving my 100-percent during every drill and game.”

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