Shannon “Pee Wee” Johnson – Q&A – Orlando Miracle

Known for her brilliant smile and flashy play, Orlando Miracle point guard Shannon “Pee Wee” Johnson’s 5.3 assists and 16.3 points per game earned her a place on the 2002 Eastern All-Star Team as well as all-WNBA 2nd Team honors. The 28 year old South Carolina native didn’t miss a beat as a member of the USA Senior team, helping the US win a gold medal in China and joining teammate Lisa Leslie on the All-World Championship team.

WB: Talk about playing on the World Championship team.

Shannon Johnson: Oh, my goodness… Everybody was talking about, “was there more pressure to win because the men lost?” No, it wasn’t, because we knew what we had to do. The gold medal was our goal. We blew those first teams out, and there was no let up, no matter who was out there playing because we all had our USA basketball jerseys on. Not being part of that starting five – it’s funny – the people on the bench came up with a slogan for ourselves: ‘The X-Factors.’ (Laughs) What I’m saying is we made a difference. We wanted to keep it on the same level as the starters.

I’ve been with USA basketball since ’93, moving up through the ranks. It’s been a very long time – and I could only think about patience when I was out there. I’ve waited and waited to play on the highest level. I’m hoping I can make the Olympic team in 2004.

WB: You’ve spoken of Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoopes’ loyalty to USA Basketball. With all their individual honors, what keeps them playing?

SJ: I think it’s about them looking at it and saying, “If I can go out there and represent my country, I will.” Sheryl and Lisa are like the Kobe and Shaq of the men’s league. They’ve been playing for USA Basketball for so long – like Dawn Staley and Teresa Edwards – they’ve always been there as the core group. I consider them the top two players in the world, and not just because they’re from the United States. Playing against them, and playing with them…(laughs) I can tell you right now, it’s a BIG advantage playing with them.

If you want to say that they’re the best in the world – how can you say that if they don’t compete at the international level? They’ve dominated in America – which we definitely know — and then to go out and dominate internationally. That’s something they take pride in. When you put that jersey on, you’re representing every part – every PERSON — in the United States. And that’s how they go out and play. They didn’t let up at any time. Being around their competitiveness, and being around complete champions, it brought the best out in me.

WB: Do you sense USA Basketball stalwarts Teresa Edwards and Dawn Staley are passing the point guard “torch” to you and Sue Bird?

SJ: I honestly believe that Teresa and Dawn are it passing along to different players. They know that their time WILL run out, but they don’t want that competitiveness in that position to ever lay down. And playing behind two such great players – you want don’t want to let it go down at all. It was a great honor to play with Dawn. We learned so much from watching her, playing with her, her talking to us. It was the same thing with Teresa, when I played with her. She talked to me and gave me clues.

WB: Talk about what you’ve learned from Edwards.

SJ: If you know anything about Teresa, you know about her competitiveness. This is a player that goes after it every second on the court – EVERY second. She knows what she can do and what she can’t do, but what she can do, she does much better than anyone else out there. I don’t think there’s a part of the court she doesn’t see, offensively or defensively. You’re talking about a player who can get you the ball – you’re open, she’ll get it to you. She took charge out there on the court. She’s the one that put the time in, that laid the lines down. Laid it down for all of us.

WEB EXTRA

Known for her brilliant smile and flashy play, Orlando Miracle point guard Shannon “Pee Wee” Johnson’s 5.3 assists and 16.3 points per game earned her a place on the 2002 Eastern All-Star Team as well as all-WNBA 2nd Team honors. The 28 year old South Carolina native didn’t miss a beat as a member of the USA Senior team, helping the US win a gold medal in China and joining teammate Lisa Leslie on the All-World Championship team.

WB: You had an outstanding 2002 WNBA season – what made the difference?

Shannon Johnson: I just went out there and played with a lot of confidence. Last season I was slowed by injuries and didn’t have the kind of year I wanted. Neither Nykesha (Sales) or I felt satisfied. We both had something to prove this season.

WB: What did new coach Dee Brown bring to the Miracle?

SJ: I must say, he did bring us a little attitude – of wanting to put it out there every night. He used a lot of our athletic ability this year, and just let us go out there and play. That was a lot of fun. Just to play for somebody who respected you – respected all the players.

This first year was definitely a learning experience for Dee. He’s used to winning. He’s used to going out there and doing it himself. Not being able to go out there and play… (Laughs) He’d get in on a couple of drills, and he’d talk some smack to us. (Laughs) He had a lot of fun with that. But it was a learning stage for him, because there were a couple of games that we had the game won, but we didn’t show up at the end. He definitely learned more about himself and the play in this league. I know he wanted so bad for us to do so well, and there were times when just we didn’t. We know we need a little more out there on the court. I think Dee is going to do the necessary thing to make our team a little more well-rounded so we can compete on the next level.

WB: Losing Taj McWilliams-Franklin to pregnancy also had an impact.

SJ: It definitely hit us. It was a surprise, but it was a GOOD surprise. We were very happy for her and her husband. He’s a great guy and Michele, her daughter, is just great. It just added another member to the family. If you think of it on the flip side, all of us do this as a professional sport – but life is much more important.

WB: A highlight of this year’s All-Star game was your one-on-one “duel” with Lisa Leslie.

SJ: (Laughs) We switched out and she ended up on me. And we just started to talk. It wasn’t one of those aggressive talks when you just say something that’s not called for. It was more a laughing little thing, like, “I can’t believe that you’re out here at the top of the key on me. Now, if I was down there in the post with you, you’d just dominate me.” (Laughs) She saw the smile on my face- and being a competitor, she wanted that challenge. She was like, “This is something that I want to do.” It’s a lot of fun playing against a player like that who has a competitive nature but doesn’t take it the wrong way.

It was a nice moment – and with both of us keeping it competitive AND being able to smile about the situation – that just shows our fellowship and friendship in women’s basketball.

WB: Are you concerned about the Player/League contract negotiations?

SJ: It’s not something that I think about right now, mainly because I’m coming off of winning a world championship. (Laughs) I’m kind of in awe of everything that’s been happening. I’m going to go overseas and carry on with my life. Both parties are going to try and make the best decision for the WNBA. That’s why we have the union – to do that for us. To take care us. Both parties want things better for the women. Think about it – all of us really want this league here.

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