Commentary

Glory's days getting under way at Tennessee

Originally Published: November 11, 2008
By Mechelle Voepel | Special to ESPN.com

Just as if she were in math class, Glory Johnson pretty much knew the answer instinctively. But she still did all the work to solve the problem.

[+] EnlargeGlory Johnson
Ben Smidt/Icon SMIIn an exhibition game Nov. 6 -- her college debut -- freshman and former high school All-American Glory Johnson scored 33 points and had 14 rebounds in a 135-55 win.

Johnson moved to Knoxville, Tenn., in 2002, when she was about to turn 12. It didn't take long, of course, for her to get hooked on Tennessee women's basketball. So when Tennessee coach Pat Summitt started recruiting Johnson -- as did colleges all over the country -- she really had an "in."

"My mom's loved Pat ever since we moved here," said Johnson, the youngest of five siblings. "She definitely wanted me to stay here. But my dad wanted me to visit other places, too."

Johnson, a 6-foot-3 post out of Webb School in Knoxville, was not inclined to disagree with her mom. She wasn't feeling any itch to get away from the area, the idea of staying close to her family was a lure and she knew first-hand the excitement of Thompson-Boling Arena.

"Being able to come to games and even see some of their practices -- how hard they worked -- was good preparation for me before I got here," she said.

Still, Johnson's father wanted her to make sure she explored all her options, so she dutifully made official and unofficial visits to places such as North Carolina, Duke and UCLA. In the end, though, she stayed put; she joins Summitt's crew as one of six true freshmen in a transition time for Tennessee.

Johnson was born in Colorado, then moved to Arkansas at age 7 before moving to Tennessee. And while she's not a native Southerner, her fondness for author William Faulkner suggests she's one in spirit.

"He was able to relate his writing to all of his personal experiences," she said. "When you read the stories, you can see yourself at some point in what he's writing. You really think about it."

Faulkner, who set most of his works in his home state of Mississippi, is not easy reading, to say the least. Yet that's part of what appealed to Johnson.

"Sometimes you need to read the stories over and over and over, because maybe you don't understand them at first," she said. "Then I would understand them personally. There are things you don't think you'd ever think about, but after reading some of his stories, you do."

Now, she's ready for "the sound and the fury" that can be Tennessee basketball (like when Summitt is not happy with practice, for instance). As you can no doubt tell, Johnson -- whose mother is a nurse and whose father works for NASA -- is the cerebral type. But she also was a track and field standout at Webb and will bring the type of sheer athleticism in the post that might remind fans of the player she'd like to emulate, Tamika Catchings.

In Johnson's exhibition debut Thursday, she had 33 points and 14 rebounds … and surely a few "Glory, Glory, Hallelujahs" were uttered by Tennessee fans.

The program is coming off two NCAA titles in a row. And with 17 more victories this season, Summitt will reach 1,000 for her career. It's expected Johnson will be a key part of keeping things status quo for the Orange Crush.

"It's an honor to be at a great program, with such a great coach," Johnson said, adding that even though she has been nearby since she was a kid, now she's really a part of Tennessee.

"I have to say I'm really excited to finally be here."

Mechelle Voepel is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. She can be reached at mvoepel123@yahoo.com.

Mechelle Voepel joined ESPN.com in 1996 and covers women's college hoops, the WNBA, the LPGA, and additional collegiate sports for espnW.