Minutes before the New Mexico game at The Pit, the San Diego State women’s basketball team was going through its normal routine.
Stretching, focusing, rapping … Yes, rapping.
Senior forward Jessika Bradley creates a new rap for each game. In this particular freestyle, Bradley compared New Mexico’s famed home arena to an armpit. Bradley’s longtime friend and teammate, senior center Paris Johnson, led the rest of the team in a beat while holding down the rhythm for the track.
The rap worked. Johnson led her team in scoring and SDSU won the game, which head coach Beth Burns circled as a possible turning point in the season.
There is clearly more to Johnson than just beats. She is leading her team in several statistical categories, including points and defensive rebounds, as well as emotionally. Bradley said Johnson has matured since high school and has become a great leader.
“I think that she’s more vocal than she used to be,” Bradley said. “She’s always been goofy and I think she’s got a little more serious in her senior role. I think she does a great job leading and leading by example.”
Johnson started leading by example when she was being recruited four years ago. A top-100 recruit nationally, she had her pick at big-time schools such as Miami and Baylor, which is currently ranked third in the country. But Johnson wanted to stay loyal to her hometown.
“In the past, all the big names went away from San Diego,” Johnson said. “Charde Houston went to UConn, Candice Wiggins left too. I figured, why not stay and give San Diego a big-time basketball player?”
And a big-time basketball player was exactly what the Aztecs got. As a freshman, Johnson made the Mountain West Conference honorable mention team, and by her sophomore year she was first-team all-conference. Now in her final year on Montezuma Mesa, Johnson is averaging just fewer than 15 points per game and is shooting close to 55 percent from the field.
Though her college days are winding down, Johnson has no intentions of ending her basketball career.
“Either I get drafted or I’ll play overseas,” Johnson said. “I love the game so much. If I don’t keep going, it’s a waste.”
“The sky is the limit for her,” Bradley said. “She still has a lot of potential and whatever she wants to do, she can do it.”
Johnson, Bradley and fellow senior Coco Davis will take the court at Viejas Arena for the final time tonight when SDSU hosts Wyoming. They will be honored for their contributions to the team both on and off the court and will play a game that has heavy seeding implications for the MWC Tournament.
But first, they will rap.
AT A GLANCE:
Who: Wyoming Cowgirls
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Viejas Arena
Why to watch: The Azteces will try to earn a win for their upperclassmen on Senior Night.