In a moment of pressure, Akienreh Johnson knows how to deliver.
Johnson receives a pass out of the paint from Amy Dilk. She fires it around the three-point line to Haily Brown. Brown sinks the three.
It’s the biggest assist of senior guard Akienreh Johnson’s career. With under 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter of the semifinals of the 2020 Big Ten Tournament against Northwestern, Michigan has just secured the win.
Johnson delivered, and Michigan will need her to continue to deliver this season as a fifth-year senior.
Johnson was granted a fifth-year by the NCAA in early April. She suffered from a season-ending ACL injury during her freshman year and petitioned the NCAA shortly for a fifth-year after last year’s season was canceled due to COVID-19.
Last season, the guard dominated the floor, securing her spot as a starter for Michigan. As one of two seniors last year, the Wolverines counted on her to lead the team both on and off the court as the captain.
This year, the Wolverines will continue to rely on Johnson’s leadership and versatility on the court. To better understand Johnson’s best assets, The Daily breaks down some film:
This clip, from Michigan’s Big Ten Tournament semifinal game against Northwestern, highlights Johnson’s crucial post-entry passes. She assesses her options, pivoting multiple times before committing to the pass in the paint. She finds then-freshman forward Naz Hillmon under the basket for an easy layup.
Hillmon and Johnson have proven to be a formidable duo on the court. Their ability to read each other leads to multiple assists and points.
Most of the time, Johnson’s post-entry passes lead to buckets. But it’s not just the passes that make Johnson useful in the frontcourt. Equally important is Johnson’s willingness to be selfless. Later in this game, she dribbles around the arc waiting for the opportunity to give it to Hillmon. She understands her role on the team, and had the third-highest assists last year with 76 — only one behind Hillmon.
Even with her high assist stats last season, Johnson dominated the three-point line all season. Here, she looks calm under pressure, with a Rutgers defender flying in her face.
Last season she made 22 threes, with a .364 shooting percentage, the second-most on the team.
Johnson’s ability to shoot makes her an even bigger threat offensively. It makes her challenging to guard. With her snappy post-entry passes as well as her impressive shooting, defenders have a hard time covering both aspects of her game on the offensive end.
Johnson is tall for a guard, standing 6-foot. In NCAA Division 1, the average height of a women’s basketball player is 5-foot-6.
Here, she bodies one of Rutgers’ guards, forcing her to make a bad pass. Johnson easily blocks the pass and takes the ball down the floor for an assist to then-sophomore guard Amy Dilk.
Her height also factors into her high rebounding and steals stats. Last season, Johnson averaged 6.5 rebounds per game, with 208 on the season. In steals, she led the team with 49.
Overall, it’s Johnson’s variability that makes her irreplaceable in the Wolverines’ lineup. Her shooting and passing ability, coupled with her height, make her virtually unstoppable on the court.
She’s at ease with the ball, and makes smart decisions seemingly effortlessly.