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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Johnson still searching for WNBA title




BY LOU BEZJAK

June 5, 2009

Shannon Johnson has accomplished many things during her basketball career.

From winning state championships at Hartsville High to playing in the NCAA tournament at South Carolina and winning a gold medal in the 2004 Olympics, Johnson has done it all.

But one thing has eluded her — a WNBA championship.

That’s one of the driving forces for Johnson, who will begin her 11th WNBA season Saturday when the Seattle Storm face Sacramento.

Johnson’s best shot at a title came in 2007 as a member of the Detroit Shock. The Shock, coached by former Piston Bill Laimbeer, lost to the Phoenix Mercury 3-2 in the WNBA Finals.

“That was a great experience and was fun to be part of and I enjoyed every minute of it,” Johnson said this week. “Hopefully that could happen in Seattle. They are one of the more established teams in the league and competitive every year.”

Johnson is in her first season with Storm. She signed a two-year deal last season to play with the Houston Comets but the team folded after the season, making her a free agent.

Johnson landed in Seattle, mainly because of her relationship with coach Brian Agler. She won two titles playing for Agler in the ABL with Columbus and also played for him in the WNBA for one season when he was an assistant for the San Antonio Silver Stars.

“He is like a father figure to me and a good teacher,” said Johnson, who ranks second all-time in the WNBA with 1,372 assists. “He is a defensively minded coach and I think I fit pretty good in the system. I just want to go out and keep being productive.”

Johnson’s primary role will be to back up guards Sue Bird and Tanisha Parker and also to provide leadership to the team.

“I think she’s going to play real well for us this year,” Agler said in an interview on the team’s Web site. “Whether it’s a role that she plays supplemental coming in behind Sue and Tanisha or there will be times where she’s on the floor with them. She’s experienced. She’s been in both situations. She knows how to be competitive and be prepared.”

Seattle is the latest stop for Johnson in her basketball odyssey, which has spanned two continents during her 13-year professional career.

Johnson has a home in Spain, although she said she doesn’t spend much time there except when she is playing there in the offseason.

This year, she played for Spain’s EBE Ibiza-PDV and averaged 13.8 points and three assists per game.

“I have seen the world playing basketball,” Johnson said. “I wouldn’t have thought I would be able to keep playing for this long.

“I have been able to keep myself in good shape by lifting weights and away from injuries. Plus, I love to play the game and it’s still fun for me.”

And the 35-year-old Johnson says she doesn’t have plans of slowing down.

Johnson says she would like to play a few more years then possibly get involved in college coaching. She said a perfect scenario would be to be reunited with her friend and former Olympic teammate Dawn Staley, the women’s coach at South Carolina.

“I would love to give back to the women’s game by coaching. I have been so blessed to be able to play this game,” Johnson said. “That’s definitely something I want to do and would be a good next step in my career.”

JOHNSON FILE
HOMETOWN: Hartsville
YEARS IN WNBA: 11
TEAMS: Six (Orlando/Connecticut, San Antonio, Detroit, Houston and Seattle)
SCORING: 3,417, 10.7 per game
ASSISTS: 1,372, 4.3 per game
HONORS: Four-time WNBA All-Star

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