OLYMPIA — A Neah Bay player who never shied away from an open look at the basket will have the shot to keep growing as a player and person after signing to play for the South Puget Sound Community College women’s basketball team.
Red Devils senior Tristin Johnson made her decision official this week, inking a letter of intent with the Clippers and head coach Mike Moore.
Moore also has coached recent Port Angeles High School graduates Krista Johnson and Lenora Hofer.
Tristin Johnson said she took the advice of Krista Johnson, a fellow Makah tribal member, as well as current South Puget Sound player Nicole Hidalgo, a Taholah product, in making her college choice.
“It took a lot of thinking to make my decision,” Johnson said.
“I talked to some people that went there and they said it’s like home, like a family. I talked to Krista and Nicole Hidalgo and they had a lot of good things to say about the team, the school and Olympia.
“Krista was saying that whenever she wants to start a family Olympia would be a great place.”
Johnson, a confident shooter with limitless range, will strive to continue in that path as a Clipper. But she knows she’ll have to grow her game, particularly defensively, to see time on the court at the college level.
She started that process her senior year, putting up solid rebounding totals for a guard and blocking many shots defensively.
“[Coach Moore] said he has had several people who have come in, people who have never shot 3s and now can put them up,” Johnson said. “So we are going to work on my defense in the same way.”
Moore said he did his homework, learning about Johnson from Hidalgo and then asking Johnson her opinion on Tristin Johnson’s game.
“It helps to have some educated alumni during recruiting,” Moore said.
The more he learned about her, from his players, from Neah Bay coach Tony McCaulley, the more he thought Johnson would be a great fit for his program.
“She’s determined and confident in her abilities to give us what we need here,” Moore said. “She has put it upon herself to be a better defensive player and move forward on that end and we already have her in an an offseason workout program, so its moving along.”
Moore said there is much to like about her game.
“Her offensive ability stood out more so than anything else,” Moore said.
“She’s strong, that’s what we really like about her. You can get guards that can shoot the lights out, but some don’t have the intangibles to fill other roles on the court.
“We think she can use her strength and get some boards for us.”
Moore said the defensive effort is there too.
“Talking to her coach in high school, she put a big emphasis on being a better defensive player as well. She improved and bought in.
“And whether in zone or person-to-person [defense], she can hold her own. We ask our players to lock in defensively, ask them to play in a wide variety of defenses, take charges, lots of talking, and play appropriately annoying.”
Johnson will be focused defensively from her first practice with the team.
“We start off every practice with a defensive drill because we believe that will set the tone and lead to transition buckets,” Moore said.
“We’re really excited to have her join the program.”
Johnson had many people to thank for their help in getting to this stage.
“I’d like to thank my parents, Hazel and Cory Johnson,” she said. “Especially my brothers Trevor and Collin for pushing me everyday. And my team for their support. And my Auntie Cissy and Uncle Chop.
“I’m looking forward to playing ball, exploring what else there is off the reservation and going to school.”
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected]