(This article is the first in a series on athletes who graduated from high schools in Clarion County.)
SLIPPERY ROCK - Keystone Area High School graduate Madison Johnson will be entering her fifth and final season being a college basketball player.
After beginning her career at Division I St Francis, Madison chose to transfer to Slippery Rock University because of the school's safety management major. Beginning her college career in the fall of 2015, it did not take Johnson long to make an impact with the Red Flash.
In her first college game, Johnson scored 18 points against Cincinnati, and went on to win Northeast Conference (NEC) Rookie of the Week honors. She appeared in 22 games as a freshman, and her sophomore season appeared to be a promising one.
Early in her sophomore season, Johnson suffered a season ending injury which forced her to accept a redshirt. During this time off from competition, Johnson began to understand that it was Slippery Rock, not St Francis that could give her everything she wanted as a student athlete. "I really enjoyed my time at St Francis." Johnson said. I met some great friends and was a part of some great teams. We got to travel a lot as well which was also enjoyable.
"However, Slippery Rock was closer to home, they had a degree I was passionate about, and I would compete and play more right off the bat after transferring. After taking all of that into account, I chose Slippery Rock for the next three years."
Heading to The Rock proved to be a decision that was the best one for Johnson, as she immediately began to make an impact for her new team. Johnson played in 28 games and made 22 starts as a redshirt sophomore. She averaged 9.2 points per game to go with 3.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists. She scored a career high 27 points against Shippensburg, and also was Slippery Rock's third leading scorer on the season. It was evident that Johnson was back to her old self, and she was thriving in her role with her new team.
In her redshirt junior season, Johnson continued to impress, scoring in double figures nine times, and putting up some huge double-doubles against Clarion and the California University of Pennsylvania. Against Clarion, Johnson scored 25 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, while she scored 19 points and had 10 rebounds in The Rock's upset victory against number 10 ranked California University of Pennsylvania. It is evident that Johnson can score the basketball, and she has proven she can do it both at the Division I and II levels. When asking her what the biggest difference is between the NEC and the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC), Johnson was quite honest about the differences. "To me, there is no difference at all. The PSAC has great competition and some of the best players in Division II who could definitely play at the Division I level as well. It was nice to feel like I am playing at the same level whether I played at St Francis or here at Slippery Rock."
The decision to come to Slippery Rock was highly because of the safety management major offered at Slippery Rock, and Johnson admits that this is exactly what she sees herself doing after her college career concludes.
"The major is so diverse. I have peers who have worked at Ford, Disney, major construction companies, and everything in between. I think the cool thing about safety management is there will always be opportunities because companies are both required and I would like to think want to keep their employees safe."
Outside of basketball and her area of study, Johsnon admits spending time with her family and friends is what matters most to her.
Johnson's older sister Morgan is a former Division I college basketball player for the University of Rhode Island and Central Connecticut. Her younger brother Troy is a standout hooper and baseball player currently at Keystone who just began his senior year. Her father AJ is who she adopted her love of sports from. AJ was her basketball coach for several years growing up, and even helped during her varsity career. Johnson's mother Bonnie is who she lists as the biggest competitor in their family. "My mom loves to win and compete within our family. She wants to win at everything we do together." When speaking about her family, she had quite a lot to say. "My family has always been number one in my life. My parents always found a way to come to me and my siblings games. We also drove a lot to see each other play as much as we possibly could. Their support means everything."
With one final college basketball season, Johnson will surely be ready to leave it all on the court. In the future, she hopes to coach high school girls basketball to give back to the game that has given her so much. Her favorite memories in basketball will always be playing alongside her older sister Morgan during their high school days at Keystone. With basketball season beginning next month, Madison Johnson knows the final chapter of college basketball is quickly approaching.