March 28, 2024 

Kymora Johnson is leading Virginia’s bright future

In a season full of impactful freshmen, she had a memorable campaign

VILLANOVA, Pa. — Kymora Johnson is creating memories in John Paul Jones Arena. At this sacred facility, she witnessed numerous shining moments from the best seat in the house as a wide-eyed ball girl.

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Johnson, who started playing basketball when she was 3 years old, spent plenty of time dreaming about helping the University of Virginia women’s basketball program return to elite status. She knows all about the school’s spectacular history and phenomenal players.

“It’s so surreal playing here,” Johnson said following Virginia’s 73-55 season-ending setback to Villanova at Finneran Pavilion on Sunday in the second round of the WBIT. “I used to sit five feet away from everybody and be one of the girls wiping players’ sweat off the floor. Now, other people are wiping my sweat off the floor.”


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After concluding an impressive freshman season, the Charlottesville native cherishes the opportunity to wear Virginia’s iconic orange-and-navy-blue uniform. She spent most of her time growing up watching her favorite players, like China Crosby and Lauren Moses. Johnson wore her hair like Crosby and modeled parts of her game after her.

She also learned about the brilliance of Dawn Staley, the Burgess twins, Wendy Palmer and Virginia’s Final Four runs from her mom, who watched them play. Johnson is excited to help lift Virginia back to this standard.

The 5’7 spark plug is one of many sensational freshmen making a positive impression across the college basketball landscape this season. And Johnson is doing it at home, which means plenty to her. She led the Cavaliers in scoring with 15.3 points per game in helping them return to the postseason for the first time since 2018.


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It’s easy for Johnson to get lost nationally since the Cavaliers tied for 10th in the rugged Atlantic Coast Conference under head coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton. More heralded freshmen like JuJu Watkins (USC), Hannah Hidalgo (Notre Dame), and MiLaysia Fulwiley (South Carolina) helped their teams advance to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16.

But Johnson has been the perfect fit for the Cavaliers.

“In high school, it was kind of the same thing: There was not a lot of spotlight on me,” Johnson said. “I kind of just took that as fuel and fire to compete harder, keep working on my game, stay humble and keep being me.”

Kymora Johnson
Kymora Johnson is one of six Power Five guards averaging 15.0 points and 5.0 assists per game — joining the likes of Caitlin Clark and Georgia Amoore in that exclusive club. (Photo credit: Virginia Athletics)

Named to the All-ACC Second Team and All-ACC Freshman selection, Johnson is one of six Power Five guards averaging 15.0 points and 5.0 assists per game — joining the likes of Caitlin Clark and Georgia Amoore in that exclusive club. Johnson is the first Virginia freshman to be named to an All-ACC team since 2002.

Johnson’s impact has been felt all over the stat sheet. She is fourth in the ACC in assists per game (5.4) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.0), ninth in 3-pointers made per game (1.9), and 10th in steals per game (1.8). She led the Cavaliers with 60 3-pointers, which helped Virginia finish with a single-season program record of 218 triples. 


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Johnson, named ACC Rookie of the Week twice, is a strong, quick and graceful guard who can get anywhere on the floor whenever she wants. Wearing her trademark navy-blue headband and arm sleeve, Johnson plays with precision and confidence while displaying a competitive maturity that provides the Cavaliers with positive energy.

Virginia’s season featured wins over four ranked opponents, a feat the team accomplished for the first time since the 2008-09 season. Johnson, who ended the season by scoring in double figures in 19 consecutive games, has enjoyed being part of the Virginia renaissance. 

A major season highlight for Johnson was scoring 35 points in a victory over then-15th-ranked Florida State on Jan. 21. Johnson’s 35 points tied for sixth all-time in program history, and she is one of just two freshmen in school history to achieve that milestone. The other was Dawn Staley, who had 37 points at Wake Forest on Feb. 2, 1989. 


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Let it sink in that Johnson achieved something that hadn’t been done in 35 years.

During Virginia’s 81-59 victory over High Point in the first round of the WBIT, Johnson showcased her skills during a mesmerizing three-minute sequence of the first quarter after the Cavaliers trailed 10-9. Johnson, a nerveless dispenser of the ball, dropped two beautiful dimes leading to baskets, swished a pull-up from 14 feet and recorded a steal. 

The win over High Point was Virginia’s first in postseason play since 2018 and first at John Paul Jones Arena since 2012. The foundation is set for Virginia. Johnson is having fun leading her teammates even though it took some time for her to get comfortable. Agugua-Hamilton’s mantra, “Grind now, shine later,” is one Johnson embraces. 


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“Coach preaches culture here all the time,” Johnson said. “All of us bought in from the beginning of the season. We hit some lows, but we always stayed together. That says a lot about who we are as a team. I am most proud of my growth. I’ve learned a lot, honestly, this year.”

After laughing, smiling and hugging friends and family in the postgame quiet of the Pavilion while arena workers cleaned trash from the aisles, Johnson reflected on her growth areas, which included increasing the quality of her shot selection and being comfortable leading as a freshman. 

“I struggled, in the beginning, to be that vocal leader that we needed on the court,” Johnson said. “As the season progressed, I found my role and voice. This was the place I wanted to be. I knew I could help put this special place back on the map.”


Stathead Stat of the Week

A’ja Wilson has 540 points through the first 20 games of the season. That’s the most points any WNBA player has scored in the first 20 games of any season.

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Written by Rob Knox

Rob Knox is an award-winning professional and a member of the Lincoln (Pa.) Athletics Hall of Fame. In addition to having work published in SLAM magazine, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington Post, and Diverse Issues In Higher Education, Knox enjoyed a distinguished career as an athletics communicator for Lincoln, Kutztown, Coppin State, Towson, and UNC Greensboro. He also worked at ESPN and for the Delaware County Daily Times. Recently, Knox was honored by CSC with the Mary Jo Haverbeck Trailblazer Award and the NCAA with its Champion of Diversity award. Named a HBCU Legend by SI.com, Knox is a graduate of Lincoln University and a past president of the College Sports Communicators, formerly CoSIDA.

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