ANCHORAGE — Go ahead and pinch Jenna Johnson. The former Wasilla High player of the year doesn’t want to sleepwalk through the Great Alaska Shootout.
The Utah State University senior is back in her home state to play in the tournament she grew up watching, and said she wants to savor every moment.
“It would be impossible to describe the emotions and feelings that I have coming back home to play at the Shootout. It is a dream come true,” she said. “All in a matter of time it went from me being that little girl in the stands looking up to those women on the court, to now me being the one to have little girls watch me.”
Utah State tipped off against the University of Alaska Anchorage Wednesday at Sullivan Arena in the Shootout championship game. Final results were not available by press time.
Johnson is a terrific two-way player for Utah State. Tough and athletic, the 5-foot-10 guard was voted her team’s defensive player of the year, but when needed to score, she can and twice has netted 17 points in a game.
This week marks the first time playing in Alaska at the college level.
“I am very blessed to be playing in my home state so my friends and family have the opportunity to watch me play at the next level,” she said. “My teammates are looking forward to seeing where I come from and where I live because I constantly am talking about this beautiful state.”
Johnson comes back to the Last Frontier averaging a career-best 14 points per game. She also came searching for her team’s first win after an 0-3 start.
“It will be nice to make it back up Alaska, yet my team and I are coming up there for business,” she said. “We are at the beginning of the season with a new coaching staff trying to identify who we are and who we want to be.”
Still, she recognizes the Shootout games are different than other regular season games because in Alaska she is a role model.
“I look forward to stepping foot on the floor and proving to those little girls in the stands that it is possible,” Johnson said. “If you believe in yourself and work hard, you can accomplish your dreams.”
Van Williams is a sports writer and the former sports editor for the Anchorage Daily News. He writes about Alaska athletes for the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame.