CofC Athletics Communications
When fans come to see the College of Charleston women's basketball team, they might not always see junior point guard Brittany Johnson play, but head coach Natasha Adair knows she is a significant part of the success of the team.
As a freshman, Johnson was a manager for the team, as a sophomore, she earned a spot as a walk-on, and as a junior, she is still a walk-on and a model student-athlete.
"I'm excited to have her in this program because she brings so much," Adair said. "She has been a part of our success in more ways than she even knows or understands."
Johnson grew up in Marietta, Ga., in a sports family. Her father, Jerry, played basketball for Fairfield University in Connecticut and Brittany grew up playing basketball and volleyball and running track.
"I have tons of pictures of my Dad playing basketball in college," Johnson said. "It's funny to see him playing with the afro and the short shorts."
Johnson's father coached her during AAU basketball, and helped mold her into the player she is today. Hearing how he played hard and hustled after loose balls motivated her to play with the same intensity.
Johnson's high school team advanced to the championship game of the state tournament, and were runner-up her sophomore year. Through her high school career, Johnson earned the most coachable award, hustle award and best defense award.
Johnson was recruited by the College of Charleston, but the team ran out of scholarships and walk-on positions. Johnson fell in love with the campus on her visit, and decided to take a chance and try to be involved with the program and earn a spot on the team.
Her freshman year she served as a manager, and learned a lot from the experience.
"That was a great experience, because I got to see a different perspective of the game," she said. "I love the game, so it was great to be involved. I got to get to know the coaches and the players and learn a lot about the game of basketball."
Then Johnson got her opportunity the following year, as a walk-on position opened up. Johnson considered it a blessing and trained hard all summer following her freshman year to be ready to help the team.
Being a walk-on
Being in the position of a walk-on is not easy. As a walk-on, a player does not get scholarship money that teammates do, but is held to the same standard and same level of expectations.
"Being a walk-on is intense," Adair said. "You are paying your own way and are held under the same umbrella of expectations and demands. Brittany Johnson doesn't flinch. She is a kid you will always see with a smile on her face. She is a kid that is respectful and works hard and is one of our hardest workers."
"Being a walk-on, some people have the mentality that she is not good enough or she is going to always sit on the bench," Johnson said. "I've already proved people wrong by playing and getting this position on the team. To me, it's about proving people wrong, getting better and helping my team get better and that's how I stay positive."
Johnson's role on the team
Johnson has a very important role on the team as a leader of the scout team. When the Cougars prepare for opponents, Johnson is given the assignment to model a player on the opposing team to help her team get ready for upcoming games.
"Jill Brown is an amazing point guard and I try to challenge her and make her better, which also makes me better," Johnson said. "The harder I play the more I help our team."
"In practice she pushes all of our guards," Adair said. "She competes. I'm sure some of that competitive edge is having something to prove as a walk-on. We give her an assignment about playing a certain style as we scout other teams and she gets it done."
Helping from the bench on game day
Although you might not see Johnson on the court on game day, that does not mean she is not having an impact on the game: Johnson is always smiling and encouraging her teammates.
"If you scan our bench on game day, Brittany is cheering and standing up and sharing positive energy," Adair said. "I can look down the bench and say 'let's go' and Brittany is the first one leading the cheer. That is a teammate and someone who values her opportunity and puts the team before herself."
"Positive energy is important and it radiates to everyone," Johnson said. "It's contagious when your positive and cheering your team on. If I'm that way, the people on the bench next to me are going to be that way and the people on the court are going to be that way."
Life after college
Johnson said she appreciates the opportunity to be a student and an athlete at the College of Charleston.
"I love this school," she said. "When I came on my visit during high school, I fell in love with this campus. I'm getting a great education and it's a blessing to be here and be a student-athlete."
Johnson is an exercise science major and after graduation plans to continue her education at Physician's Assistant school and work in the medical field. Her mother, Robin, is a nurse and Brittany wants to be hands on and help people.
A model student-athlete
Johnson has a great attitude about being a walk-on and contributes in any way she can. Johnson has played in 32 games and has made one start in her CofC career. She has totaled 16 points, 16 assists and 18 rebounds, but the numbers only tell part of the story.
"When we win, whether she plays one minute or doesn't play, she has been an integral part of that success, because of the preparation behind the scenes that most people don't see," Adair said. "For her to be doing this for the love of the game speaks volumes about her character, who she is and who she is going to grow to become as she gets older."
For Johnson, she was raised with strong values and work ethic and embraces her opportunities in life, on and off the basketball court.
"Every day I go to practice with the mentality that I worked hard to get this spot as a walk-on," Johnson said. "Every day is a new challenge and I come in with the mentality that I am going to get better today and I'm going to make my team better."