Akienreh Johnson does it all.
The fifth-year senior guard has been an integral part of the No. 13 Michigan women’s basketball team’s 10-1 start to the season. While junior forward Naz Hillmon usually takes the spotlight with her perennially dominant outings, Johnson uses her experience to fill in the gaps on both ends of the floor.
On the offensive end, her scoring ability is a valuable asset to the Wolverines’ attack. She averages 11.8 points per game, good enough to be the team’s third-leading scorer. Given the recent absence of junior guard Leigha Brown, Michigan’s second-leading scorer, Johnson has stepped up to fill the void. In the last three games, she’s averaged 15 points.
Johnson’s aggressive nature is a defining characteristic of her offense — it creates trips to the free-throw line and sparks momentum for the Wolverines. When offensive production is lagging, Johnson’s not afraid to get in the lane and make something happen. Her ability to drive and dish is an important facet of Michigan’s offense and averaging three assists per game, she works well with Hillmon down low.
Defensively, Johnson is arguably Michigan’s biggest asset. She often guards opposing teams’ top guards and has been successful in keeping them contained. Against Wisconsin, she held guard Sydney Hilliard, who averages 17 points per game on the season, to just one point.
“(Johnson) doesn’t get a ton of credit all the time for the things that she does that don’t show up in the box score, but she guards the other team’s best player and she takes that to heart,” Wolverines’ coach Kim Barnes Arico said after the game against the Badgers on Jan. 14. “(Johnson) was guarding (Hilliard) tonight, and (Hilliard) didn’t score a point on her. She came out of the game and I just said, ‘unbelievable.’ ”
Johnson has also contributed to Michigan’s number one ranking in rebounding in the Big Ten, averaging 5.8 per game. Being a tall guard standing at 6-foot-0, she crashes boards and assists Hillmon in keeping the ball away from opposing teams.
“Akienreh Johnson is, I think the best defender in the Big Ten, one of the best defenders in the country,” Barnes Arico said after the Northwestern game on Jan. 3. “She’s up to every challenge, and she does a great job of really locking in.”
Overall, her numbers aren’t flashy, in fact, they’re comparable to the rest of the starters on the team. But Johnson’s ability to do a little of everything is what keeps her on the floor. She reads the floor well and fills in where other players lack, making her invaluable in the lineup.