Vickie Johnson

It's rare in this world when an individual gets the live their childhood dreams. However, for Vickie Johnson, that rarity became a reality.

Growing up in rural Coushatta, La., Johnson was a basketball star and one of the most highly-sought after girls prep players in the country in the early 1990s.

As a sophomore at Coushatta High School, Johnson verbally committed to Louisiana Tech, knowing she was born to wear the Columbia blue and red.

"It was a great honor (to play at Tech)," Johnson said. "It was always a dream of mine to play for the Lady Techsters and to have gotten the opportunity to live that dream is beyond words."

Johnson's dream will be remembered Oct. 20 when she is one of six members of the 2007 Class of inductees into the Louisiana Tech Athletic Hall of Fame. It's a worthy honor for one of the program's all-time best.

Johnson signed with Tech in November of 1990, and was one of the main reasons the Lady Techsters recruiting class was ranked as the second best in the country that season.

Johnson's decision to head to Ruston was not one that should be taken for granted. Tech, a traditional powerhouse in women's basketball, began slipping from the nation's elite the year before Johnson arrived on campus.

Tech fell out of the Top 25 in 1990-91 for the first time in 13 years and lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament while sporting a mediocre 18-12. The following year wasn't much better for Tech as Johnson had to sit out due to NCAA academic requirements.

However, head coach Leon Barmore knew help was on the way.

"We had faltered in the early 90s," Barmore recalled. "From a talent standpoint, we had gone down. However, we signed Vickie, Debra Williams, Racquel Spurlock and Amy Brown in the same class, and they changed all of that.

"No question that Vickie coming to Louisiana Tech really helped put this program back on the national map. If we don't get that class, we would have been gone from the national spotlight. She wasn't a savior by herself, but she sure was instrumental."

When Johnson was finally able to don a Techster uniform in 1992-93, the improvement in the talent level on the floor for Louisiana Tech was obvious and the results soon followed. The young but talented Johnson helped lead Tech to the NCAA Tournament regional finals before falling to Vanderbilt 58-53 in Nacogdoches.

Despite the disappointing loss, the Lady Techsters were back, and Johnson was a key ingredient.

"Vickie Johnson was the ultimate teammate," Barmore said. "She did whatever it took to win; whether that meant playing defense or scoring or just being a leader. She was good at both ends of the floor. I think her accomplishments at Tech speak for what type of player and person she was."

Brown, who is now the head coach at Tennessee Tech, agreed with her former coach's assessment of her former teammate.

"Vickie was a winner," Brown said. "She was the type of player that wasn't going to allow her team to lose if she had any control over it. She practiced every day like she played every night. It was contagious with her teammates."

During her four year career -- Johnson benefited from the NCAA changing their Proposition 48 rule allowing non-qualifiers to earn their year back if they graduated on time -- the 5-foot-9 two-guard with the sweet baseline jumper etched her name in the Tech record books.

On her way to leading Tech to a four-year mark of 116-17 and the 1994 National Championship game, the two-time Kodak All-American scored 1,960 points, grabbed 881 rebounds and shot 50 percent from the field and 75 percent from the free throw line.

"Vickie was as smooth a basketball player as I can remember coaching," Barmore said. "The baseline was her home; she would roam the baseline and make that little jump shot all night. It was a beautiful thing to watch. I think she was one of the players that our fans enjoyed watching the most."

When asked what she remembers most about her Tech playing days, Johnson said that the people she was associated with in the Lady Techster program.

"Every year was a great year for me," Johnson said. "I enjoyed my teammates and my coaching staff and everything about (the program). If I had to do it all over again, I would do it the same way. When I left, I had no regrets. I gave all I had."

Her experiences at Louisiana Tech and the development of her game prepared her for the next phase of her life -- more basketball but this time on the professional level.

Johnson was the 12th overall player taken in the 1997 WNBA Elite Draft as the New York Liberty selected her in the second round. Eleven years later, Johnson is one of only a handful of players who have played in every year of the league's existence.

"I just thank God for it," said Johnson, who played nine seasons for the Liberty and the last two for the San Antonio Silver Stars. "It has to do with a lot of discipline learned from my mom (Susie Marie Johnson) and coach Barmore. I learned how to take care of my body. I play overseas year round and that is a great advantage for me because my body stays in shape."

During Johnson?s WNBA career, she is one of only three players in WNBA history to have scored more than 3,000 points, grabbed more than 1,000 rebounds and dished out more than 750 assists. The two-time WNBA all-star also ranks first in career minutes with over 9,000.

"I think it speaks volumes about her," Barmore said. "It tells you how valuable she is to those franchises she has played for all these years. She is kind of like Cal Ripken, she never misses a game. She plays and plays and plays."

When Johnson is inducted into the Louisiana Tech Hall of Fame Oct. 20, Lady Techster fans will recall so many wonderful memories of her playing days.

"As good a player she was on the court, she's a better person," Brown said. "She deserves this honor for what she did as a player, but it's even sweeter because of whom she is off the court."

What does Johnson hope her former teammates, coaches and basketball fans remember about her?

"(I want to be remembered for) the fact I was consistent throughout my playing days," Johnson said. "I didn't just focus on one aspect of the game. I played every game like it was my last."

And Johnson did it while living a dream.

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