Junior transfer guard Victoria Johnson during the Stony Brook women’s basketball home opener against Manhattan on Nov. 8. After transferring from Hinds Community College in Mississippi, less than 60 miles from where she attended high school, Johnson has found an east coast home on Long Island. SARA RUBERG/THE STATESMAN

The Stony Brook women’s basketball team needed offensive weapons following a 23-8 season where they lost in the America East Tournament semifinals, seeing two vital players — guards Shania Johnson and Jerell Matthews — graduate. They found the answer in last year’s NJCAA First Team All-American and ninth overall scorer, junior guard Victoria Johnson.

Johnson transferred from Hinds Community College in Mississippi — less than 60 miles from her high school in Camden, Mississippi — where she scored over 1,000 points in her high school career. Now over 1,000 miles from home, Johnson was unafraid to travel but seems to have found her east coast home on Long Island.

“I was just looking for a school that made me feel like I was at home,” Johnson said. “The school that has the type or style of the game I play and really good coaches.”

Stony Brook Women’s Basketball head coach Caroline McCombs seems to fit that bill, accumulating an 87-67 overall record and having the second-best winning percentage among head coaches in Stony Brook women’s basketball history. 

Johnson has found her requirements for a school here and has been happy with her transition so far. Stony Brook has taken her in with open arms. 

“It was a big transition,” Johnson said. “[It was] all new to me, but quickly the coaches and veteran players wrapped their arms around me and made the process easier.”

As for what Johnson adds to the Seawolves — other than a scoring threat — is her mentality, and she emphasizes that. “I’m always on attack mode and I’m always on go, just really aggressive,” Johnson said.

If her attitude did not already give it away, Johnson has a love affair with the game of basketball — one that stretches the distance between Camden, Mississippi and Stony Brook, New York. “I just love the game so much, I’m very passionate about it,” Johnson said. “I just like being on the court.”

When asked who she idolized as a player, she pointed to one of the biggest stars in the WNBA right now.

“Candace Parker,” Johnson said. “She motivates me.”

Parker is a WNBA champion, two-time MVP and five-time WNBA all-star, along with being a two-time national champion with the Tennessee Volunteers during her college career. Parker’s legacy as a winner is one that Johnson hopes to emulate beginning in Stony Brook. She does not just want to go far; she wants it all. Johnson has big ambitions for Stony Brook’s 2019-20 season and certainly does not sell the Seawolves short. 

“We’re looking to get those rings, go to the NCAA Tournament,” Johnson said. “I want a ring badly. I’m going to do anything it takes. An America East ring is not good enough. I’m not settling for that.” 

The Stony Brook women’s basketball team has never reached the NCAA Tournament in program history, coming closest in 2002 and 2014 when they reached the America East Finals, losing both times.

So what would be the key for Stony Brook to finally claim an America East title and beyond? 

“I would say defense,” Johnson said. “It’s really big for us. To win ball games, you have to be greedy on defense and the offense will come.”

The recent results in the conference back her up. The past three winners of the America East championship have finished in the top three in scoring defense, with Stony Brook being the only team in the last three seasons to finish number one in scoring defense and not win the title. 

The Seawolves will have the offense to compete, as Johnson has the second-highest scoring average on the team in the early going despite only averaging 17.8 minutes per game. The team’s ability to hold its own on the other side of the court will be the determining factor for how high the Seawolves can climb, and Johnson is committed to going far.

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