BATON ROUGE -- The 2009-10 LSU Lady Tiger basketball team, coaching staff and the LSU Fast Break Club honored former point guard Temeka Johnson for winning a 2009 WNBA Championship with the Phoenix Mercury on Friday night in the Lawton Room.
The ceremony included comments from Johnson, Chancellor and senior guard Allison Hightower, as well as a tribute video that featured her career at LSU and her championship season with the Mercury. Auction items, including Johnson’s game-worn, WNBA Finals Game 5 jersey were auctioned off.
The donations that were raised went to Johnson’s H.O.P.E. Foundation. The Heaven Opens People’s Eyes (H.O.P.E.) Foundation helps provide programming, resources and awareness for underserved communities. On Friday, Johnson spoke to students at Magnolia Woods Elementary School, which was adopted by the H.O.P.E. Foundation last year.
Johnson became just the second former Lady Tiger to win a WNBA championship, joining Elaine Powell who claimed league titles with the Detroit Shock in 2003, 2006 and 2008. In all, LSU women’s basketball has been associated with eight WNBA championships as Chancellor won the league’s first four titles from 1997-2000 with the Houston Comets.
“I am so happy to be in the company of Elaine Powell with the championships,” Johnson said. “She has been up there alone for some time. I am glad I can keep her company now. I hope this continues and that all of our Lady Tigers can accomplish winning a championship one day.”
Johnson started all 11 playoff games for the Phoenix, averaging 7.5 points and 3.1 assists per contest. Trailing 2-1 in the best-of-five series against Indiana, Johnson chipped in 10 points and five assists in Game 4 as the Mercury evened the series with a 90-77 victory. Phoenix won the decisive Game 5 on its home floor by a score of 94-86.
The championship was the culmination of her fifth year in the league. The 2005 WNBA Draft selection of the Washington Mystics, Johnson was named Rookie of the Year that season. She then played three seasons for Los Angeles before finding the perfect fit with Phoenix earlier this summer.
“It is a surreal feeling to be honest,” Johnson told the crowd Friday. “After losing Coach (Sue) Gunter, being traded after my Rookie of the Year season, hurting my knee and losing my best friend, my grandmother Jewel Johnson to cancer last year, I must say there were some dark days.
“The transition to Phoenix is what brought me here tonight. I want to thank everyone who has embraced me from LSU from Coach (Bob) Starkey to Coach Chancellor to Coach (Travis) Mays and Coach (Kenya-Larkin) Landers and of course the fans. Being a part of Lady Tiger basketball is something I will always be proud of and I will feel that way even when I am 40 (years old). This championship is for everyone here at LSU.”
Johnson enjoyed career highs in points per game (9.6) in her first season with the Phoenix while starting all 34 games. Before being traded, the former 2005 collegiate point guard of the year would attend LSU practices and watch the Lady Tigers. Assistant coach Travis Mays helped improve her jump shot in workout sessions.
“The hard work I have put in started here at LSU,” Johnson said. “It’s the 6 a.m. workout sessions with Coach Mays to the advice from Coach Chancellor and Coach Starkey that all helped me last spring.”
“She gives the best advice and is a great friend to us,” Hightower said. “On behalf of the team we just want to thank Temeka for everything she has done and meant to LSU.”
In closing, Johnson had a special message for the 2009-10 Lady Tigers who officially begin practice Saturday morning.
“Dream big and work hard,” she said. “I dreamed about winning a championship all my life from the Final Four to now. When your time as a Lady Tiger is over, it’s over and you can’t have those years back. All you have are the memories. It’s an honor to wear the LSU jersey.”
For more information on LSU women’s basketball: