6B - The Michigan Daily - SPORTSMonday - Monday, February 26, 1996
A quick learner
Johns has adjusted well to her
new home - on and off the court
By James Goldstein
Daily Sports Writer
The course description
In this course, you will learn how
ltoshoot, pass, dribble, steal, rebound
and block shots.
You will also be taught how to hit
the outlet pass, follow up your shot,
make a bounce pass, be part ofa full-
court press, make a variety of moves
in the paint, and fool the opponent
about your next move.
1 Learn the basics of shooting the
jump shot and add in a fade-away
and turnaround as the semester
The course will be divided into two
sections - offense and defense.
-: For the first half of the course,
learn how to post up in the paint,
grab the ball off a pass from the
perimeter, dribble through the lane,
fool your opponent with a head fake
and shoot the ball off the backboard
for two points.
In the second half gather all of
the skills necessary for playing
man-to-man and the 2-3 zone
defensive schemes. Get the proper
tutelage on putting your body in and
pushing the opponent out of the
In addition, pick up skills in boxing
your opponent out and swatting a
shot out of bounds.
By the end of the course, you will
get to apply the skills on the basket-
There will be one cumulative exam
at the close of the course.
Pollyanna Johns took this course in
her freshman year of high school.
The starting center of the Michigan
women's basketball team had moved
from Jamaica to the United States just
three years earlier.
She saw how the kids in her class
were doing it. She thought it was
something she should try to learn.
This basketball "thing" looked like
something that she would enjoy.
Besides, she was an athlete already.
Johns ran track and field and threw
the discus in her secondary school in
And she was tall - over six feet
"When I came here (to the United
States), a majority of the people had a
preconceived notion that tall people
can play basketball," Johns said. "I
was tall, so I guess people figured I
could play basketball."
It didn't take long for Johns to get
accustomed to the game - maybe a
year or so.
Johns passed Basketball 101 with
flying colors. She handled the course
like a flip book, going through each
page of hoops skills with unbeliev-
Johns has been the lone bright spot
in the Wolverines' (1-15 Big Ten, 7-
19 overall) disappointing season.
If it weren't for her, the loss total
could have jumped even more and
Michigan could be sitting here
today with no conference wins to
Johns' 14.6 points per game and
10.1 rebounds per game lead the
team. Her rebounding average ranks
in the top 20 in the nation.
Her slender 6-foot-3 frame takes up
space in the paint and in a flash she
can get around the opponent and head
to the basket for two points.
Johns led the Wolverines to one of
their few victories in December
against Houston, posting 20 points
and pulling down 16 rebounds.
She scored a career-high 30 points
and grabbed 15 rebounds in a
heartbreaking loss at Michigan State
Jan. 5. And she equaled that scoring
total three games later against Illinois.
Conference opponents had
problems matching up against Johns.
She was dominating in the post,
spinning for a turnaround jumper or
driving with force to the basket for an
Michigan coach Trish Roberts
thinks that because she puts in the
effort game in and game out, she
might be first team all-Big Ten.
"I don't think Pollyanna (Johns)
understands or visualizes how great a
player she can be," Roberts said "She
can come out in any game and put out
great numbers if she wants to."
One reason for her not realizing her
potential is the fact that she has only
played the game for six years now,
and she is still learning.
There was no chance to learn
basketball in Jamaica.
Born December 6, 1975, in Nassau,
Johns moved to Kingston, Jamaica, a
year later. She lived there for 13
years, and not one time did she hear
of or watch any basketball.
"Where I came from, nobody knew
anything about basketball," Johns
said. "I didn't know anything about
"I didn't even know anything about
Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson
until I came here."
What Johns did know how to do
was run track and field and do the
long jump, competing on her junior
high school team in Kingston.
Johns can boast to her three sisters
(Alice, Stephanie and Carlene) and
her two brothers (Garfield and Leon)
of being the only athlete in her
But that was not enough for the
Johns family. Jamaica's economy was
extremely poor and, after visiting the
United States for the first time, the.
Johns family decided they would be
better off in America.
So when Johns was 13, she and
her family moved to Evanston and
that's where they have lived ever
Johns entered Evanston Township
High School and began to see how
popular basketball really was. She got
involved in basketball for the first
time by just watching her school-
mates and imitating what they would
do. Since she was tall, Johns figured
it would be a game in which she
"I was trying to learn the game and
catch up with everyone else," Johns
said. "But I didn't know what it
could do for me. I was new to the
game. We (the Johns family) were all
knew to the game."
But basketball wasn't her first
success in high school.
When first asked by high school
coach Cynthia Bumbry whether Johns
would like to learn how to play, Johns
The career of
took a greatieap
this year fo owing
knee injury in her
much of the
season, Johns was,
x" averaging a double
double per game.
Johns Is relatively
new to the sport,&
but you wouldn't
know that by
watching her now.
Johns progressed smoothly and
ended her high school career averag-
ing 14 points, 11 rebounds and three
blocks per game.
Roberts saw Johns for the first time
in a summer league tournament
outside Chicago and liked what she
"I was so impressed with her
athletic ability," Roberts said. "Her
running and jumping was really
What led to her incredible athletic
nature was joining the Evanston
Township track and field team,.where
she ran and threw the discus. She'was
Illinois state champion in 1993 ' '
In addition, after watching the 19
Summer Olympics U.S. womeir ,
See JOHNS, Page 8
said no, at first, because she was
interested in something completely
different - modeling.
Not only did Johns partake in
modeling competitions, but she fared
Johns captured second runner-up in
Miss Young America 1990-91 and
received a trophy in doing so.
But she latched on to Bumbry soon
after, being talked into playing hoops.
Johns worked with her morning and
afternoon, learning the game and
working on conditioning.
"I'm a fast learner," Johns said. "I
just-watched what other people did
and just tried to mimic them. Coach
Bumbry took time out to help me.
She would teach me as early as'7:30
a.m. the basic fundamentals of
And a fast learner she was. Even
though Johns admits that it took a full
year to get accustomed to the sport,
she got instant fame.
Newspapers in the Chicago area
immediately noticed Johns and they
wrote about her instantly - so much
that Johns' mother, Sadie, was
"Pollyanna was in the paper all the
time," Sadie Johns said. "So much
that I was getting tired of getting the
"Sometimes when I went to work
people would say to me, 'Mrs. Johns,
did you see your daughter in the
newspaper?' I said no. My supervisor
always saved the papers for me. I was
so proud of her, 100 percent."
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