By Matt Hill
BRISTOL—Wins have been hard to come by for the King College Lady Tornado this season, but one player is keeping the Lady Highlander tradition live and well at area colleges.
Brooke Johnson is the latest former Cloudland High School player to make an impact at area colleges in recent year, joining former stars like Ashley Stocton, Taukia Hughes and Tara Hanson among others who have helped to form one of the finest basketball traditions in the area.
Johnson is currently averaging 10.9 points along with 2.2 assists and 2.3 rebounds per contest. She has started every game except one for King.
When Johnson gets going with her shot, she can be very hard to stop. Recently against Limestone College, the shots weren’t falling, but other nights they are.
For Johnson, she just continues to go at it and hopefully the shots and the wins will start coming.
“I hope it goes in every time, but if it doesn’t I focus on my defense and I focus on rebounding and if the shots aren’t falling there’s always something else I can be doing,” she said. “If I don’t contribute points, I can contribute assists or rebounds. I hope you can call me a complete player. I always work hard and if the shots fall the shots fall and they don’t I’ll try to make something else happen.”
When Johnson was playing for the Lady ’Landers, the big rival was Hampton and on the other side was Mikki Oliver. Now, they are teammates at King and good friends.
Unfortunately at the time of this interview, Oliver was injured and Johnson really misses having her friend and former rival in the games.
“We had been at each other’s throat for four years in high school and I heard she signed at King and I was like I was stuck with her for another four years,” Johnson said. “Over the past three years Mikki and I have become really close and she’s contributed so much. It’s pretty cool having two from the same area and both being able to compete at this high level.
“It’s not the same without her. We were warming up today and it just didn’t feel right. No matter whether Mikki is in the game or not in the game she’s contributing. She was on the bench cheering us on, She’s a great teammate and I really love having her on the team.”
Johnson is a proud Lady ’ Lander who loves Roan Mountain and being a part of a community that is crazy about girls basketball.
Before the 2001 Cloudland football team that nearly won the state championship and before the recent dynasty in boys basketball, the girls program was and still is a powerful program and one the community is proud of.
Johnson is one of the best players in school history among a group of outstanding girls.
She always wanted to be a Lady ’Lander and always wanted to be a part of the tradition.
“I grew up a Lady ’Lander,” Johnson said. “At age five I was on a junior cadet team and it’s something that in elementary school you dream of going to state and it’s something you set out to do. My goal was to get my education paid for and I worked hard and it happened and I get to be part of that elite group that has come out of Cloudland that’s played at a high level.”
Johnson and the rest of the Lady ’Lander former and current players are driven to be the best and they want to excel on the court.
“I think it starts from a young age and my dad coached me up until junior high and we always work hard and coach Matt Birchfield’s focus was to always go in there and work hard and it paid off.”
Johnson has a personal interest on this year’s Lady Highlander team that is currently ranked in the top five in the state. Her sister Haley plays for Cloudland.
She feels this team has a chance to do something extremely special, having already defeated bigger programs like Elizabethton and Unicoi County twice.
“My sister is a sophomore and comes off the bench, so I definitely keep up with them,” Johnson said. “One of my best friends is helping out on the bench so I definitely expect big things from them this year. They’re very talented.”
While her sister attempts to help the school bring home a state championship, Brooke is focused on getting her education and helping King College get better.
As of the Limestone game on Jan. 26, the Lady Tornado had only three wins, but they’re getting better every game and now are looking to make some noise around tournament time.
You can bet when King does make that run, Johnson will be leading the charge.
“I want us to go to the conference tournament and compete,” she said. “I feel like as we keep improving at the conference tournament we’ll be where we need to be. This is my first year in a conference and next year our goal is to be conference champions.”