WNBA Player Spotlight: Shannon Johnson

By Yolande Lezine
Updated: August 17, 2008

HOUSTON — It was only four years ago to the date that WNBA guard Shannon Johnson was living a dream by participating in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. She was representing the United States as a member of the U.S. Basketball Women’s Senior National Team.

That year, she helped the United States women’s basketball team win the gold medal. A feat that came after playing in the Olympic Festival, the World Games, the World Universal Games, and the Jones Cup.

Four years later, the former Olympic Gold Medalist and seasoned veteran is now taking stakes on another claim and that is to lead the Houston Comets to the 2008 playoffs and another WNBA Championship.

Shannon “Pee Wee” Johnson was acquired by the Comets as a free agent in March. Houston is her fifth team in this her ninth WNBA season. She previously played for the Orlando Miracle (1999-2002), Connecticut Sun (2003), San Antonio Silver Stars (2004-06), and the Detroit Shock (2007) before landing a home with the Comets.

She’s one of the most unselfish players in the league, not concerned about scoring in double-figures, but being the floor general on the court and doing whatever it takes to help the team win.

“Shannon is truly our coach on the floor,” Comets head coach Karleen Thompson said. “She knows what I want and we communicate well. She sets the tone for our entire team.”

The 5-foot-7 point guard, who grew up in Hartsville, South Carolina, is the second oldest player on the Comets roster. She will turn 34 on August 18th. She is the second oldest of six children whose names all begin with an “S” just like hers.

Johnson, despite her small stature has been faced with many challenges throughout her life. She grew up in a single parent home with her mom, older sister, and a brother. She was adopted and raised by her aunt for six years until her mom was able to again care for them.

Her first love was volleyball, which has a lot to do with how she earned her nickname “Pee Wee” for being the shortest person on the team. However, it was the sport of basketball that changed her life in the seventh grade.

“Basketball changed my life,” Johnson said. “It made me a very, very blessed and fortunate individual.” As the floor leader for the Comets, Johnson takes her role very seriously.

She brings a wealth of experience to the organization. She reminds me of the phrase used for a Timex watch commercial, “she takes a licking and keeps on ticking” every game.

“I’m the quarterback for the team, the communicator from Coach Thompson to the floor,” Johnson stated. “My communication with Coach “K” is good. This is our first time together and as a veteran point guard this is a very important role.”

Many of Johnson’s former Olympic teammates are in Bejing, China trying to repeat as the 2008 gold medalist. They include: Lisa Leslie, Tina Thompson, Diana Taurasi, and Tamika Catchings.

Our spotlight takes a closer look at the 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist.

BASN: What do you remember most about being in the Olympics?

SJ: “I felt excited the first time that I put my jersey on. To be on the same team with Sheryl Swoopes, Tamika Catchings, Tina Thompson, Dawn Staley and others was great!”

BASN: What do you remember most about the Opening Ceremonies?

SJ: “The United States got to come out first because Dawn Staley was the flag bearer and we were right behind her.”

BASN: How special was it to play with fellow Olympians who you are now playing against in the WNBA?

SJ: “It was great! It was all about the team. It didn’t matter who had the most success.”

BASN: Were you surprised about your selection in 2004?

SJ: “No, Coach Van Chancellor let me know that he had a lot of confidence in me and that I was his choice.”

BASN: How would you define yourself as a player?

SJ: “Hard-nosed! I beat myself up a lot.”

BASN: Where overseas have you played basketball?

SJ: “Asia, Australia, Russia, Poland, Italy, Turkey, and Spain.”

BASN: Were you ever nervous about playing for the United States?

SJ: “Always! My heart was always beating very fast. The USA has always been the team to beat. You get the best athletes in the world every night.”

BASN: How many more years do you plan on playing in the WNBA?

SJ: “I would like to play at least one more year.”

BASN: Do you have any interest in coaching after your playing days are over?

SJ: “Yes, I would like to coach on the college level.”

BASN: Looking back at all of your accomplishments on the court, which one stands out the most?

SJ: “Being an Olympic Gold Medalist. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

BASN: What are your overall thoughts of the WNBA and what are your hopes for the future of the league?

SJ: “I’m so excited to be a pioneer of the WNBA. I think that it is a great opportunity for women to play in their own country.”

BASN: You are the second oldest of six children and all of your siblings names being with an “S”. Is this a coincidence?

SJ: “My mom started that. Its just something she did.”

BASN: Talk about your two dogs Scottie & Misty?

SJ: “They are both snoodles and I’ve had them for 12 and 13 years. They have gone everywhere I have played.”

PLAYER PROFILE Full Name: Shannon Regina Johnson Jersey #: 41 Height: 5-feet-7 Weight: 152 WNBA Season: 9th College: South Carolina, 1996 Birthdate: August 18, 1974.

Age: 34 High School: Hartsville (S.C.) High School


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