A quick glance over the Stony Brook Women’s Basketball roster would show that most of the players range from 5’7” to 6’1” in height, giving them a greater chance of getting to where they want to on the court.
However, there is one player who is the exception to the rule. She’s a mere 5’1”, but approaches the game with a level of grit and determination that makes one forget about her short stature. That player is senior guard Shania Johnson, or as she’s affectionately known by her teammates and coaches, “Shorty.” Johnson believes that her height helps her more than others may think.
“I would say that I am at an advantage because people underestimate me,” Johnson said. “I like when people underestimate me because I can come out there and show them what I’m really about.”
Johnson’s desire to show people what she was all about started at a young age while living in Frederick, Maryland. She grew up watching her favorite player, former NBA point guard and Hall of Famer Allen Iverson, carve up defenses despite only being 6’0”, something she wanted to do, too. Yet it was her older brother who helped instill the undying love for basketball that she now has.
“What got me into playing basketball growing up was my older brother,” Johnson said. “He got to start playing a year before me and I was jealous. I wanted to play but I couldn’t play because I was too young. When I got to the age where I could play in elementary school, that’s when it started to develop.”
Johnson first made an impact playing basketball at Tuscarora High School. She experienced great success during her tenure there, finishing as a 1,000 point scorer and winning the Frederick News-Post Player of the Year in 2013.
After graduating from Tuscarora, Johnson took her talents to Monroe College in New Rochelle, New York and again found success, though it didn’t happen right away. A torn ACL injury in her right knee sidelined her for the entire 2015 season. She came back with a vengeance as a redshirt-sophomore for the Mustangs in 2016, averaging 21.3 points per game along with five assists per game. Her numbers earned her both the Region XV Player of the Year and an All-American Honorable Mention by the NJCAA. Johnson said that home games at Monroe were very different compared to now at Stony Brook.
“It was a different atmosphere over [at Monroe]” she said. “It was much easier playing playing against other kids. When I transferred over [to Stony Brook], it felt like home. It felt more comfortable here because I felt like I could play in a bigger atmosphere and get people to notice me.”
People certainly noticed Johnson in her first season for the Seawolves last year. She started all 30 games, averaging 16 points, 5.6 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game. She also knocked down 95 3-point shots, a new single-season program record. Those numbers led to Johnson being named to the America East All-First Team and the MBWA All-Met Third Team. As Johnson’s second season at Stony Brook gets underway, head coach Caroline McCombs can’t help but admire how far Johnson has come.
“There has been so much growth from Shorty from year one to year two,” McCombs said. “It’s kind of like what you see from a freshman to a sophomore. She’s very hard to guard.”
One of the most noticeable aspects of Johnson’s play is the chemistry she shares with senior guard Jerell Matthews. The galvanizing guard duo works well together on the court, which Johnson attributes to their relationship off the floor.
“We work so well because we are really close off the court,” Johnson said. “It’s not just about what happens on the court because off the court, we are really close friends. We work hard together and we want to win.”
In two games so far in her second season at Stony Brook, Johnson is averaging 14.5 points and 7.5 assists per game. With Johnson being a senior now, she will be looked at as a leader for the team — something she embraces and is thankful for.
“It’s kind of nerve racking but really exciting at the same time because you got younger people looking at you,” she said. “So I think it’s an accomplishment to go from where I came from to be where I’m at today.”