Pollyanna Johns – Miami Sol
Since being drafted by the Charlotte Sting in 1998, Pollyanna Johns had never started in the WNBA, averaging a slim 7 minutes a game. So last season, when a trade from Cleveland (via Phoenix) sent her to Miami, the 6’3″ center understood her role: back up all-star Elena Baranova and 2001 first-round draft pick Ruth Riley. “I didn’t expect much playing time,” Johns says with a grin.
But when Baranova stayed home to play for Russian National team and Riley injured her hand in preseason, Johns was unexpectedly thrust into the starting line-up. To the surprise of many, she thrived. Playing over 25 minutes a game, she shot over 52%, averaging 7 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.
“Going from not playing at all to actually starting,” admits Johns, “was a lot to handle. I had some great teammates helping me just to be calm – to just relax and play.” Johns also credits Coach Ron Rothstein for his support. “He’s a teacher. It was a new situation for me, and he took the time to encourage and motivate me.”
During her four-year, three-team journey, Johns always believed her time would come. “Everybody fits someone’s team,” says Johns. “It takes patience and persistence.” Johns knew there were plenty of experienced veterans in front of her who’d paid their dues and deserved to play. “You have to get bounced around, and eventually you find your comfort spot,” explains Johns. “Hopefully it’s here in Miami for me.”
Johns’ voice is tinged with regret when she reflects back on the season. Nagged by the injury bug all season, the Sol struggled to integrate new talent with the old. “On paper we’re very good,” says Johns. “We ran out of time. I’m disappointed we fell short one game [of the playoffs],” But, she adds, “that’s just a little taste. I have high hopes for next season. Now we know what to expect — what to aim for. It’s going to be interesting next year, when everyone’s healthy.”
To that end, Johns is busy in Miami rehabbing a recently scope knee and making appearances in the community. “Talking to kids, making them aware of the Sol,” says Johns, “supporting whatever’s going on in their lives. That’s what it’s all about. They’re the ones that come to watch and support us. If it weren’t for them, there wouldn’t be any Sol.”