Belding’s Johnson to play for Team USA

By Chip Burch • Last Updated 10:04 am on Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Belding graduate Taylor Johnson drives the ball for Central Michigan University. Johnson finished her Chippewa career this spring. — Courtesy photo

BELDING — Taylor Johnson thought her basketball career was over after four years at Central Michigan University.

The 2010 Belding graduate was working out to try out for CMU’s softball team next winter.

Those plans are on hold.

Instead, Johnson will be focusing on basketball again as she prepares to play for Team USA in the William Jones Cup in Taipei City, Taiwan.

“I’m so excited. Beyond excited,” Johnson said. “I’ve never, ever thought I would be wearing red, white and blue. The thought never crossed my mind. Just being able to rep(resent) USA is going to be nice.”

Johnson was invited to try out for the team by a representative for USA Basketball. She went down to Indianapolis, Ind. for tryouts Sunday.

“We went through a bunch of conditioning to see where we were at in our conditioning,” Johnson said. “We scrimmaged a bit with each other. We were put through running. It was your average tryout to see if you were in shape.”

Johnson said she had been warned about how difficult the tryout would be.

“My coach (CMU women’s basketball coach Sue Guevara) said the tryouts are hard,” she said. “They are looking for who is still standing in the end. She was right. They pushed us really hard in the tryouts.”

Once the tryout was over, Johnson wasn’t sure whether she made it or not based on her critique of her performance.

“Honestly at that point it was up in the air,” she said. “I walked up after the tryout and they said they loved (her) energy. It was good feedback. I just didn’t know because they can’t say anything after the tryout.”

There were others who were also there trying out for the team.

“There were girls from around the country,” Johnson said. “Some were from Rhode Island, some were from Illinois and some were from Kentucky.”

Johnson’s tryout was one of five that took place around the country. She was informed she made the team Tuesday.

“They (USA basketball coaches) told me ‘You made it, we want you on the team We want to know if you will play with us.’ I said ‘Yes I do,’” she said.

Johnson played on problematic knees for her four years at CMU. So she didn’t know if her knees would hold up for the tournament. However, Johnson will play pain or no pain, she said.

“Being something I’ve always wanted I am just going to have to play the motto I’ve always had and that’s ‘play now, hurt later,’” she said. “I’ve been losing weight. I’ve lost 20 pounds. I just have to keep sucking it up and playing with pain.”

Johnson was also told there is a possibility she could impress European scouts enough to want her to play professionally there.

“It’s going to be a big change because he (the Team USA coach) said that by making the team and going overseas there’s a very high chance I could play for a team in Europe,” she said.

The Jones Cup tournament will be in August.

Johnson’s four years at CMU included a Mid-American Conference championship in her junior year. As a senior she became the 23rd Lady Chippewa to score 1,000 points in a career.

Johnson also scored over 1,000 points in four years as a Belding basketball player, where she was a three-sport athlete.

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