Valerie Johnson is a standout girls’ basketball player for Fairdale High School.
The 5-foot-5 senior combo guard is averaging a team-high 14.8 points and 3.5 rebounds while shooting 72 percent from the free-throw line for the Bulldogs (6-12) this season.
Johnson, who earned second-team All-Sixth Region honors last season, had 22 points and six rebounds in a 64-56 loss to Bryan Station on Saturday in the Fairdale New Year Exposure.
Q: When did you start playing basketball?
A: I was in fourth grade and I just needed something to focus on and get me through school because I really wasn’t a wanting-to-go-to-school person. So I dedicated myself to basketball to get me through school, and that’s what my focus has been since then.
Q: What’s your role on the team?
A: The leader. Everyone plays off of me, my energy. They look up to me, so I try my best to keep it going. It’s kind of hard being a leader. You’ve got everyone looking up to you, so you don’t want to make any wrong decisions or mess up.
Q: What’s it like being the only senior on the team?
A: I was the only junior last year, so I feel like I came in by myself, (and) I’m going to leave by myself.
Q: The team went to Florida over Christmas break. What was that like?
A: It was fun. It was a good experience because I’d never really been on a team trip like that with school going that far. But I traveled in AAU, so it was kind of the same, but it was new to the girls so I had to tell them, “We’ve got to do this. We’ve got to do that.” It was a good experience.
Q: You scored a career-high 31 points against Southern earlier this season. Tell me about that game.
A: It was good. My other teammate (Ty Brown), she got her career-high (too). She scored, I think 24 (actually 20), so it was good for her. She’s a sophomore. We all played good that game.
Q: You transferred to Fairdale from Waggener over Christmas break of your sophomore year. Are you glad you did?
A: I feel like it was a good switch. I could focus more here than at Waggener. All my grades changed. I’m making A’s and B’s here. I like it here, especially because they have law enforcement, and it’s what I want to do.
Q: Is that what you want to do for a career?
A: I want to be a detective, so I’m going to go into criminal justice.
Q: What sparked that?
A: I’ve always watched “CSI” and “Law & Order,” so I was like, “That’s what I want to do.” I just looked into it, so that’s just been my dream ever since I got hooked on those TV shows.
Q: What’s your relationship like with Coach (Marco) Price?
A: He’s a good coach. I look up to him. He’s played a big role in my life. When I don’t have anyone, I can go to him and talk to him about anything. He made me a better player than what I was. He makes me see the game different. He’s a pretty good coach.
Q: What are your strengths on the court?
A: Getting to the basket and making free throws.
Q: What’s your goal this season?
A: I want to at least win districts, because we haven’t done that in a while here, so that’s my main goal. And to make the all-region team again.
Q: Speaking of the district you have a big district game Friday night against PRP. What’s it going to take to win?
A: If we just come out focused, play hard, right off the top then play hard through the whole game we’ve got a good chance of winning. But we’ve got to stay focused and play hard ‘til the buzzer.
VALERIE JOHNSON UP CLOSE
Student-athlete: Valerie, who has a 3.0 GPA, says her favorite subject is math.
Family: Valerie, 18, lives with her mother, Hope Knuckles, and her younger sister, Jaida, 13. Her older sister, Daija, 20, is a student at the University of Kentucky.
Fairdale coach Marco Price says: “I’ve had her for two and a half years now, and the one thing that hasn’t changed – and has been consistent since I first got her – is her work ethic. She works extremely hard, and that’s what you want out of your most talented player and your senior.”