Christina Johnson got off a plane from the Dominican Republic Friday evening, culminating a week-long mission trip where she and many of her teammates from Lee University handed out food to those in need in villages and orphanages.
She said, to this point, it was the most satisfying thing she had experienced during her tenure as a college athlete. Though Johnson, a lover of traveling and helping others, said she definitely has some lofty goals for her senior season on the Flames women’s basketball team.
Sure, Division II basketball isn’t the most mainstream sport in the country, but there’s no doubt that Lee’s 23-8 overall record and 14-8 conference mark in 2014 was something to be proud of.
“I did not expect it at all,” Johnson said. “We had six freshman coming in, really eight if you counted our redshirts. About halfway through the season whenever we played all the teams for the first time and adjusted, we knew we could compete.”
The Flames are transitioning from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, where they will soon be full members of the Gulf South Conference—Shorter, West Georgia and Valdosta State being the familiar counterparts from Georgia.
Lee didn’t lose a single game out of conference this past season and also had a 15-2 home record. Without the slightest inquiry, even Lee sports information director George Starr told the FCN that Johnson was and always has been a huge part of the program.
“There’s so much she does that doesn’t show up on the stat sheets,” Starr said.
In helping her team to a fourth place finish in the 12-team conference, Johnson averaged eight rebounds per game. That average would have been fourth best in the conference had the league officially kept Lee’s statistics during their transitional period.
In January, Johnson set the school’s single-game record for rebounds in a contest when she grabbed 16 against Mississippi College. She also had a 20-point game against Christian Brothers on Jan. 24.
Though, when asked about her exploits, Johnson preferred not to offer a single statistic from the season. She just mentioned what the team asks of her.
“My role is more of a defender and a rebounder,” she said. “So, a lot of times I’ll also guard the best player on the other team. It actually means a lot to me because it shows the coaches trust me.”
If the best player on the floor is a wing, she guards her. If the best player is the point guard, she might move up and guard her too.
“I can definitely guard at the point,” Johnson, who stands at 5-foot-11, said.
Guarding bigger and better athletes has been a challenge for Johnson, who wasn’t tasked with quite the same assignments in the past.
“NAIA was a lot different. We used to beat teams by 20, 30, 40 points pretty much every game and then going D-II, sometimes we win by one or two, sometimes we don’t win, but it’s so much more competitive,” she said.
Johnson plans on taking on a leadership role as a senior. She doesn’t talk much, so she’ll let her play lead the way. She also looks forward to doing more traveling—it’s become her favorite thing to do.
“I’ve enjoyed a lot of the road trips our team takes,” Johnson said. “I haven’t really had the normal college experience because most of it revolves around team activities, but trips are great. This recent trip was maybe one of the highlights so far.”
Johnson has gone on mission trips with her team, as well as individually. She’s traveled to Mexico and India, twice.
She prefers the humble walk in life, but that doesn’t mean every once in a while she gets mistaken for a celebrity.
“In India nobody really knew what basketball was, so maybe people would ask if I’m an athlete every once in a while,” she said. “But yesterday somebody thought I was Serena Williams. Yeah, that was a first.”