Morgan Johnson knows where home is.
I found that out this week when I visited with the former Platte County High School basketball standout in-between drills at the Lady Pirates annual summer hoops camp.
But she also knows that the opportunity to get paid for playing a game she loves — in exotic locations around the globe, to boot — is a once-in-a-lifetime chance she’s not about to pass up.
Johnson, who recently completed a pre-med undergraduate degree in health and human physiology at the University of Iowa — where she passed the time starting a school-record 129 basketball games in four years — is only home for a week or so. Then she’s back to Iowa City, where she said she’s got a summer schedule packed with private lessons to young hoopster hopefuls. Then in September, she said she is heading for the Czech Republic, where she will get paid to play professional basketball in Europe.
“I just got my contract yesterday, so that’s pretty exciting,” she said. “I’m going to put medical school on hold for a few years and play while I still can.”
It’s hard to argue with her.
Johnson, 6-feet, 5-inches tall, left PlatteCounty after a stellar high school career that saw her establish school records in points (1,920), rebounds (1,211) and blocked shots (421). She also was named all-conference and all-district all four years and earned all-state honors three times, including in her senior season of 2009 when she led the Lady Pirates to a school-record 29 wins and PCHS’s only basketball state title.
She followed that up with a great four years at Iowa, where she averaged 12.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game during her career. She led the Hawkeyes in scoring (14.4) and rebounding (7.5) this past season and was named to the All-Big 10 second team as the Hawkeyes qualified for the NCAA Tournament before losing in the second round to eventual Final Four team Notre Dame. She leaves Iowa as the program’s all-time leading shot blocker (293), its fourth-leading rebounder (886) and its ninth-leading scorer (1,582).
Johnson said she had not planned on continuing her basketball career, at least not immediately.
“I had a chance to enter the WNBA draft, but chose not to — I wanted to take some time off and get totally healthy,” said Johnson, who battled some knee issues during her Iowa playing days. “I was told I would have gone mid-second round. Then came the chance to play in China and I guess I missed the game more than I thought I would.”
In April, Johnson spent two weeks playing for a pro team in China that battled teams from Australia and Brazil during a two-week schedule.
“That was really challenging, but incredible,” Johnson said.
Shortly after that, she was offered the chance to play in he Czech Republic, so.......
“Basketball has been great to me,” said Johnson, 22, who has been playing since she was two years old. “At Iowa, we got to play in Cancun, Europe, Florida, San Diego... and now, after China, I get to play in the CzechRepublic.
“I’m so lucky — I’ve seen a lot of places and I’ve gotten to do a lot of cool stuff.”
But that doesn’t mean Johnson is too big for Platte City and Platte County High School. She said she made a special trip home this week to help Lady Pirates coach Chris Stubbs with his camp. There she was Tuesday afternoon, giving directions and helping out the young girls who look up to her, both literally and figuratively.
And, even though she has been away from PCHS for a while, she still knows there’s no place like home.
“I loved this school and the atmosphere,” she said. “I want to help out any way I can.”
HILLCREST THRIFT STORE OFF TO A FAST START
The Hillcrest Ministries Thrift Store, which has been teasing area residents for months as it prepared the old Big V and Leo’s Country Mart grocery store site in Plate City for habitation, opened its doors for business May 31.
And store general manager Lou Warner said he is stunned by the reception that the store has received so far.
“We have more than exceeded out expectations so far and done twice the business we thought we would,” he said.
The store is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10-5 on Saturday and features several departments for retail shoppers — all based on donations from the community, which are accepted from 10-3 on Saturday.
Warner said a grand opening is planned in a few weeks and that the store is still looking for volunteer help. Those interested may contact him at the store.
Thanks for reading.
Lee Stubbs is owner/editor of The Citizen. He may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 858-5154. Follow him on Twitter @leejstubbs.