April 2, 2023 

For South Carolina, a glimpse at next season with Raven Johnson

'Raven is our future'

DALLAS — With 13.5 seconds left on the clock in Friday night’s national semifinal game, guard Zia Cooke attempted a 3-pointer from the right corner and missed. Redshirt freshman Raven Johnson was there to grab the offensive board and score.

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She put the South Carolina Gamecocks within two points, 75-73, for a chance to make it to the championship game. But that play ended up being the final offensive play for South Carolina this season in a 77-73 loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes.

The 5’8 guard scored nine of her 13 points in the fourth quarter. She was more than a bright spot amid the loss — which ended Aliyah Boston’s career and likely Cooke’s as well. Johnson served as a bridge to South Carolina’s future.

During the postgame press conference, the 2023 Naismith Women’s Defensive Player of the Year Aliyah Boston said she told Johnson that after two years of being in the South Carolina program that people will be looking to her for that leadership role.

“For the big games, Raven is always ready. She does a great job of trying to pass the ball, making other people open, making other people feel included,” Boston said.

Raven Johnson attempts shot in the semifinal game in the NCAA tournament at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX. Credit: Domenic Allegra

The view from her teammates

This season Johnson was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team. The guard is a two-way player that has steadily improved throughout the season. She led the team in assists, dishing out 3.4 per game. She also led the team in steals per game.

6’2 forward Victaria Saxton told The Next that Johnson has grown so much as a player and person, ready to carry the team whenever she had to.

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“I think that’s really big and just showing how much she’s matured over the years. It shows how much she wants to lead us and I love that about her,” Saxton said.

Johnson has looked more confident as the season progressed and has gained the trust of her teammates. Freshman forward Ashlyn Watkins told The Next that Raven is the best point guard she has ever played with.

“She sees the floor, she can shoot, she can pass and she has a good IQ,” the 2022 South Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year said.

Johnson has been playing behind graduate transfer Kierra Fletcher and has been the spark off of the bench for the Gamecocks. Fletcher described Johnson as a fiery, energetic and smart all-around point guard.

“She knows when to go fast when to slow down, she makes great passes and has a great IQ and that has continued to grow over the course of the season,” Fletcher said.

Head coach Dawn Staley during the NCAA Women’s Semifinal game at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX. Credit: Domenic Allegra

Head coach Dawn Staley said during the postgame press conference that Johnson has some really great instincts and that when she’s able to keep those instincts the way they are but also be a little more patient about seeing other options, she’s going to be a terrific point guard.

“She’s a pro in the making, and I’m super proud that she’s on our team and she’s going to represent our team and our university.”

Johnson attributed her success this season to her coach and the “Freshies.” During the postgame press conference, she said the biggest thing she has learned this season was the leadership role.

“They always showed me what pro habits are and they showed me everyday what it is like to be a pro,” she said. “The way they talked to us younger players and motivated us, I really cherish that. I’m definitely going to take pride in that.”

This season may not have ended the way they wanted, but even with a record-setting class moving on to the next level, the Gamecocks have plenty to look forward to, with Johnson leading the team on the floor and in the locker room next year.

“I really wanted to win for the seniors, but yeah, I have more years to come,” Johnson said. “So we’re definitely going to be back.”

Written by Arie Graham

Arie Graham joined 'The Next' in May 2021 as the beat writer for the Dallas Wings.

1 Comment

  1. G Mechelle Davis on April 2, 2023 at 3:33 pm

    Way to go Raven. This is my cousin and the family is soooo proud of her. Her family near and far are always watching. All eyes on Raven. You’ve got next.

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