Today, we catch up with 2008 American Family Insurance ALL-USA women's basketball player Glory Johnson of The Webb School (Knoxville, Tenn.), who is in her second season with the Tulsa Shock of the WNBA. For more than 30 years, USA TODAY has recognized the nation's top high school athletes. We are digging into the archives and checking in with ALL-USA honorees from the past three decades.
Glory Johnson doesn't hear her full name that often. Her teammates and friends usually call her GloJo or Glo, for short, as if Glory isn't short enough. Whatever you call her, she has been making a name for herself this season in the WNBA.
Johnson, a 6-3, 170-pound forward in her second season in the league, is the second-leading scorer and rebounder for the Tulsa Shock, averaging 15.4 points and 9.1 rebounds a game. That's a jump from last season's numbers (11.5 points, 6.8 rebounds). She made the All-Star team for the first time, even throwing down a solid one-handed slam during the pre-game.
"It was great to go to the All-Star Game as a player," Johnson said. "A couple of the other players before the game told me, 'We heard you can dunk.' The first attempt that I made, I missed and then after I made my next dunk, everybody missed it. They were, 'No, she didn't. I bet you won't do it again.' The one everybody sees was the next one I did. I kind of like to throw it down."
Despite her All-Star trip, it's been a rough year for the Shock, who are 9-19. In the four years Johnson played at Tennessee from 2008 to 2012, the Vols never lost more than 11 games. Johnson, who was an All-American at Tennessee as a senior, regularly talks with former Vols coach Pat Summitt, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2011.
"I text message her pretty often," Johnson said. "Any time I go back to Tennessee, I try to meet up with Pat. I try to sit down with her at her house, where there's no distractions. It's hard because I would like to be there more, but I have a job. I'm sure I'm speaking for a lot of players when I say I would like to be there to help her out."
Johnson recently had to sit out several games after a concussion, but she said that pro basketball isn't rougher than playing in the Southeastern Conference.
"Our practices at Tennessee were pretty rough and the SEC could be pretty physical," she said. "I got the concussion in a game in Phoenix because I was trying to contest a three-point shot and I ended up hitting the knees of the people at courtside."
Helped by her family, who help maintain several fan sites, Johnson has a big footprint in social media, though nothing close to the attention one of her Shock teammates, Skylar Diggins, who has more than 408,000 followers on Twitter and even had Lil' Wayne wear her Notre Dame jersey during a concert.
"We've played together a bunch of times before now and back in the day, guys would ask me to get her autograph," Johnson, said, laughing. "Now, they're bold enough to ask for themselves."
Johnson graduated in three years from Tennessee with a degree in interdisciplinary global studies, which came in handy this past winter, as she played for the Chevakata team in Vologda, Russia.
"It was definitely a culture shock I had to adjust to," she said. "There was one other American, Jasmine Thomas, on my team. No one else spoke English, but I tried to communicate with everybody. Whenever we saw an American on the other team, we would talk. It helped me build some relationships."
With Vologda getting as cold as 30 degrees below zero in the winter, Johnson didn't spend a lot of time outdoors. When she did, she used a driver.
"The traffic is very bad," Johnson said. "It's just really crazy, with snow and ice everywhere. They're speeding in the snow and I don't like driving in the snow to begin with. When a car spins out, it was almost normal for them. We laugh now about it, but I wasn't laughing as it was happening."