Emilie Johnson: Hoops dream a reality for former Del Oro star
Those familiar with Emilie Johnson know she rarely needs extra motivation to spend one more hour in the gym, jog another mile or put up 100 more free throws.
But when the UC Santa Barbara senior got word in early August that she was being considered for Team USA, the tireless worker doubled her efforts.
"I knew there was a chance, so in the back of my mind that was keeping me motivated to get that extra workout in," Johnson said. "It was an honor to be considered and then to find out it was happening — that was a dream come true. To represent the Gauchos' program, Del Oro, Loomis and all my friends and family in the USA jersey is a once in a lifetime opportunity."
Late last month, Johnson was named to Team USA's roster for the upcoming Pan-American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. She will join her 11 teammates in Houston, Texas on Oct. 15 for three days of practices before heading to Mexico. The team will compete in the Pan-Am Games Oct. 21-25.
Johnson's work ethic helped her emerge as one of the top point guards in the country. She caught the eye of the USA Basketball Women's National Team Committee as a junior, averaging 13.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists for the Gauchos.
Beyond her talent as a player, the selection committee was impressed with her character and commitment to the game. On her UCSB player bio, she lists the USA women's basketball squad as her favorite sports team.
"Emilie epitomizes what it means to be a true student-athlete and her hard work on the court has put her in position for this amazing opportunity," Gauchos' head coach Carlene Mitchell said.
Johnson is joined on the national team by seven other college seniors, three juniors, one sophomore and one high school senior — Breanna Stewart, who has committed to play at UConn.
While the talent is substantial, the Team USA roster isn't loaded with All-Americans and stars from the biggest schools in the country. Coach Ceal Barry, a former longtime coach at Colorado, was looking at players who were highly motivated and would mesh well together.
"It's different. It's not the usual top 10 girls in the country," Johnson said. "There are more players from mid-major (colleges) who love to work hard and have a real love for the game."
Johnson's passion for hoops still burns after well over a decade excelling in the sport. She was an instant star at Del Oro, starting for coach Mike Takayama as a freshman and setting several career records at the school, including the all-time scoring mark.
She enters her senior year at UCSB as the team's focal point. As a junior she led the team in scoring, assists, 3-pointers, field goals and tied for the team lead in steals. The speedy 5-6 guard said a professional career in basketball is another dream that could be within reach.
"This experience (with Team USA) will definitely open my eyes to look at what's next after college," Johnson said. "As a college senior, everyone is preparing for the next step and the door has definitely opened to some options. But right now I'm trying to take it one day at a time and make the most of my senior year."
Another Del Oro grad joined Johnson on the UCSB court this fall. Madeline Campbell is a promising true freshman for the Gauchos and Johnson is happy to mentor a fellow Golden Eagle.
"It's been amazing having her here," Johnson said. "It doesn't happen very often that you get to mentor someone like that. She works so hard. She has those Loomis values instilled in her. She's going to do great things and I hope I can help her along the way."
Portions of the Pan-Am Games will air on ESPN2 and further coverage will be available online at ESPN3.com. Check for updates on Johnson and Team USA in the Journal as the Pan-Am Games approach.