How would one go about standing out on the No. 1-ranked women's basketball team in NCAA Division II?
Do exactly what Ashland University sophomore guard Jodi Johnson has done in 2017-18:
- Earn Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year, All-GLIAC Tournament, first-team All-GLIAC, All-GLIAC Defensive Team, College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-District, one national Player of the Week and seven GLIAC South Division Player of the Week honors.
- Lead the country in steals with 118.
- Rank fifth in the nation in field-goal percentage (61.8).
- Have a 3-point field-goal percentage of 60.4, which, if she had one more made triple, would lead D-II by exactly 10 percent.
- Fill up the stat sheet to the tune of 19.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 3.8 steals per game.
- Become the first sophomore in program history to reach the 1,000-career-point mark.
"She's fearless," said Ashland head coach Robyn Fralick. "She's extremely competitive, and I often find the closer the game gets, the better she plays. And those are some really unique qualities, and winning qualities."
In two seasons, Johnson has racked up 1,040 points, 342 rebounds, 246 assists and 213 steals, including a school-record 117 thefts this season. Her career free-throw percentage of 84.0 is the best in program history for anyone making at least 250 shots from the charity stripe.
Being adept at both ends of the floor, which half of the game does Johnson like better?
"I like it all," she said. "Defense is a big part of our offense, and being able to provide in different ways…just the way we play, it's just a lot of fun."
And, oh by the way, she is 68-0 as a starter.
"After the national championship last year, that gave us a little bit of time to look back. I've never been a part of a team that was able to go undefeated in a season, let alone now it's almost two," Johnson said. "You realize how special that is, but sometimes we take that stuff for granted and don't take time to see it."
All of this is pretty good for a player who wasn't sure she was going to play college basketball.
"It is crazy to think about," Johnson said. "About my sophomore year of high school, I started not to like basketball. I ended up quitting AAU to take a little bit off of playing basketball. I just stuck with high school sports. Going into my senior summer, I was going to play volleyball. That's what I wanted to do.
"I really had to make a decision, and I don't know what came to me, but I was like, basketball is what I wanted to do. Once I knew that I wanted to play basketball, I knew I wanted to come here."
"We had a lot of expectations around her, because her senior year was so good," Fralick said. "The minute she committed, you could see the freedom that came about her. It doesn't surprise me, because she works at it, and it's her first time just playing basketball. She keeps improving."
Back to Johnson's competitiveness. In recent games, her winning fire has been evident in her reactions at certain points. Why now more than earlier in the season?
"It's tournament time. We're really buckling down now," Johnson said. "It's just the hype. It's a lot more hype, and just being home…it makes it an unbelievable atmosphere and makes it a lot of fun."
"She's really competitive," Fralick said. "She brings that competitive energy, that confidence, that fearlessness. That's something that's really critical for our team."
Johnson and the Eagles are gearing up for their NCAA Division II Midwest Regional quarterfinal on Friday (March 9) at 5 p.m. vs. Hillsdale at Kates Gymnasium. And she knows "The Kates" will be charged up for it.
"We definitely feed off of that," Johnson said. "It makes this whole experience so much bigger."