Picking up a basketball at age 5, senior reflects on her 12 years of hoops experience — two of them as a starter on the Lady Lancers’ squad

Guard+senior+Annika+Johnson+%28center%29+shoots+during+a+42-35+win+at+Sonora+on+January+24.+The+win+was+Sunny+Hills%27+first+against+the+Raiders+since+the+2011-2012+season.+

Guard senior Annika Johnson (center) shoots during a 42-35 win at Sonora on January 24. The win was Sunny Hills’ first against the Raiders since the 2011-2012 season.

Kristima Aryal

Nearly 560 points scored. 

Fifth in Sunny Hills High School offensive rebounds in just two seasons.

Fourth team All-County by The Orange County [OC] Register.

First Team All-Freeway League.

As a transfer student from South Pasadena High School, girls basketball guard senior Annika Johnson has left her mark on the Lady Lancers’ basketball program. 

“My motivation for basketball comes from all the hard work that my coaches and teammates put into making a successful program,” said Johnson, who first picked up a basketball and starting shooting hoops at 5 years old. “When we are in practice, everyone is really supportive, which drives us to work our hardest.” 

Following the footsteps of her mom (Class of 1986), Johnson transferred to Sunny Hills her sophomore year, leaving her spot on the varsity girls basketball squad at South Pasadena High School.

“I transferred here because of my mom’s job,” Johnson said. “When I found out I would not get to play varsity, I felt discouraged, but overall it was a good decision because I grew mentally.”

The senior was referring to a California Interscholastic Federation regulation that prevents transfers from starting right away on the team of their new school unless they meet one of 15 exceptions, which Johnson didn’t.

Nevertheless, she was allowed to sit on the bench and watch her fellow Lady Lancers go on that 2017-2018 remarkable season run that led to a state CIF championship game in Sacramento.

“One of the main reasons we went so far in CIF that season is because the team was so close and supportive of each other,” Johnson said. “It inspired me to do as well as I could for the rest of my basketball career.” 

After securing a starting spot on the team her junior year, Johnson averaged five points and four rebounds per game in the 2018-2019 season. 

“Going into junior year, I was still a little shaky on what my role was on the team,” Johnson said. “We didn’t go as far in CIF because we did not hit shots when we needed to during the first round.” 

In Johnson’s senior season, she scored an average of 16 points and had nine rebounds per game, resulting in her becoming one of the top players in the county. 

“Annika has been a standout character for our girls basketball program the last few years,” girls basketball head coach Jae Byun said. “As a senior captain, we depended on her to be our stability and the calming presence when things weren’t going our way.”

In Lady Lancers’ record books, Johnson is ranked No. 11 in scoring, No. 13 in total three-pointers, No. 9 in total points scored in a season and No. 5 in total rebounds. 

“My senior season was everything that I wanted it to be,” Johnson said. “I am sad that our team did not get to play more games together, but I know that we will all remain close even after basketball ends.”

Johnson has also succeeded off the court as well. 

“Annika is an awesome student and genuinely likes to learn the material, which is always fun for the teacher,” said math teacher Kari Morita, who is Johnson’s Advanced Placement Statistics instructor. “She does amazing in her stats on and off court.”

Johnson is a pillar of support for her teammates and has a strong ambition to succeed.

“Annika always gives it her best no matter how big or small the situation might be,” center senior Gabby Sanders said. “As a teammate, she is always supportive and there for you no matter what.” 

After her senior season, Johnson was deemed fourth team All-County by the Orange County Register and selected to participate in the OC All- Star game. 

“After receiving the news at break on Feb. 29, I was really shocked,” Johnson said. “I did not think I was going to make the cut with all the amazing players in [the] OC.” 

However, because of the current coronavirus climate and regulations created by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, the game has been postponed indefinitely.

“I felt really sad that the all-star game got postponed,” Johnson said. “But, I have hope that it will still happen in June or maybe even in July.”

Johnson attributes her successful athletic and academic career to her parents. 

“Throughout the 12 years I’ve been playing, my parents have driven me to early practices, supported me at games and lifted me up whenever I wasn’t playing my best game,” she said. 

Through Johnson’s 12 years of playing basketball, she has learned lifelong lessons and principles that she hopes to carry for the rest of her life. 

“Basketball has taught me that there are two keys to being successful — having the right attitude and a passionate work ethic,” she said.