Notebook: Johnson has found her place with Iowa women's hoops

BY TORK MASON | MARCH 07, 2013 5:00 AM

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Morgan Johnson stands just one game away from holding the Iowa record for the number of career games played. But four years ago, she wouldn’t have guessed she’d have even one game played on such a large stage.

Hawkeye head coach Lisa Bluder recalled a phone conversation during Johnson’s recruitment and said it seemed as though Johnson didn’t think she belonged at a Power 6 conference school.

“I remember even when I was sitting in my house when I was talking to her about this in a phone call, talking to her, letting her know I thought she could be successful at this level,” Bluder said. “I could almost feel the relief coming over the phone from her because I think other coaches that were recruiting her were telling her she wasn't good enough to play at the BCS level.

“When you're 17 years old, you listen to adults a lot.”

But even then, Johnson wasn’t completely sure she was talented enough to play at the Big Ten level.

When she found out she would be thrown to the wolves from day one, she said she was a little intimidated.

“I was terrified,” she said. “I think I almost cried before my first game when I realized I was starting. It was quite terrifying.”

She said she still wasn’t sold until partway through her sophomore season in Black and Gold — after she hadstarted all 34 games and led all conference freshmen in rebounding in her first year.

But now Johnson leads the Hawkeyes in scoring and rebounding, and she holds the school record for blocked shots in a career.

“Before I came here, not too many big schools were looking at me,” Johnson said. “It was mostly mid-majors. It just took a little confidence to get there, but I’m there now.”

Taylor blossoming

Theairra Taylor’s career got off to a slow start, but she has been one of the Black and Gold’s top players in her junior season. Taylor is averaging career-highs in points (8.2 per game), steals (1 per game), and field-goal percentage (39.7 percent) in her first full season as a starter.

The native of St. Paul, Minn., suffered a trio of ACL tears dating back to her senior year of high school, and Bluder said seeing Taylor playing at such a high level is inspiring.

“She’s always been an incredible example, anybody looks at her, [for] how badly you want to play the game,” Bluder said. “She could have easily walked away with her scholarship and been on the sidelines for us. She wants to be in the game.”

Senior guard Jaime Printy said Taylor is a game-changer for the Hawkeyes with her skill and intensity on both ends of the floor.

“She gives us that quick spark that we need,” Printy said. “We’re not known as the quickest team in the world, but Theairra definitely is really fast, and has good hands on defense, and does all the little things that people don’t realize.”

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