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Connor, Johnson punching clock for ENMU

 

January 11, 2018



PORTALES — Eastern New Mexico (7-6) hasn’t quite had the start to its women’s basketball season that it had hoped for, following a Lone Star Conference title, 20-win season and NCAA Division II Tournament appearance a year ago.

However, things of late have slowly begun to turn the corner, and while numerous players deserve credit for that, two in particular, Mikaehla Connor and Dasia Johnson, have stepped up to the forefront.

Connor (second) and Johnson (sixth) are amongst the LSC’s leaders in minutes per game, as each of them has comfortably settled into their roles while trying to lead the Hounds to a second-consecutive league title and NCAA Tournament bid.

“Those are obviously two very important pieces to our puzzle,” ENMU coach Josh Prock said of the duo. “You look at Kay-Kay (Connor), I trust her about as much as any kid I’ve ever coached. She does an extremely good job of getting all her teammates involved; she understands when she needs to step up and score.

“Dasia is someone where our offense flows so well through. It’s like that quarterback that you need. She’s a tough kid, and Dasia’s just one of those great leaders out there that you know is gonna get you in the right position and get you the right shot that you need for your offense.”

Connor, a senior from McKinney, Texas, originally started her career at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona, but grew unhappy with her role on the team. A GCU teammate at the time — and future Greyhound Eliza Martinez first committed to ENMU and told Prock about Connor.

Connor says that she believed in the vision that Prock had for Eastern, and liked him as a coach. As for Prock, he knew his Hounds had to have her.

“We watched her on film and she just jumps off the page to you, how good this young lady is. We knew we had to get her,” Prock explained. “I knew the coaches at Grand Canyon real well and she still had a good relationship with them. So, they helped us out some and put a good word in for us.

“She and I hit it off pretty well from the start and she’s been a tremendous addition. You look at one of the main pieces in helping get this program heading in the right direction, she’s a huge part of that.”

Connor excelled right from the start upon arriving at Eastern. In 2015-16 as a sophomore, Connor averaged 9.1 points per game in 27 games, scoring in double-figures on 13 different occasions.

Last season, she played a big part in Eastern’s first league title in 24 years, making First Team All-LSC, along with All-LSC Defensive. Connor tied for the team led with 11.2 points per game, while averaging 33.8 minutes per contest.

Connor, who’s currently second in the LSC with 33.8 minutes per game once again, is averaging 11.0 points per on 45.3 percent shooting. At times, Connor has been asked to really turn it on offensively, while playing perhaps the Greyhounds’ most important role, defensively.

“I know every night, they have me guarding (the opponent’s) best player. That plays a big role in the minutes I play,” Connor said. “(However) Coach Prock does a really good job of managing, to where I’m not out there super tired. I just do whatever I can for the team, no matter how many minutes I play. I’m always gonna go hard and do a good job, no matter how long I’m out on the court.”

As for Johnson, she was recruited straight out of Hutto (Texas) High School. However, it took Johnson a little bit longer to find her game. The ENMU junior point guard did not initially see much playing time upon arriving on campus, averaging just 5.1 minutes per game in 11 games played as a freshman.

Despite the rigors of Texas high school basketball and its physicality, and what it can do to prepare players for the next level, Johnson says that she was simply not ready to play college ball.

“The speed (of the college game), I still wasn’t ready for it,” Johnson said. “(Not playing much as a freshman eased the college transition for me) because (the college game) definitely was an eye-opener. I definitely knew I needed to work harder over the summer, postseason and offseason to be ready for fall.”

And work hard she did. Johnson used that valuable time to turn in an impressive sophomore campaign a season ago, appearing in 29 games, starting 16. During the ‘16-17 season, Johnson averaged 3.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game in 20.9 minutes per.

However, this year she’s taken on an even more prominent role. In 13 games (all starts) thus far, Johnson averages 3.6 points, 2.6 boards and is responsible for 38 of the team’s 132 assists thus far, to go along with her 30.2 minutes per game played.

According to Prock, Johnson has really grown as a shooter, as he’s seen her really find her shot lately, not to mention, her strong leadership that she brings to the table. Prock, not surprisingly, refers to Johnson as his aforementioned ‘quarterback,’ a term commonly attached to a basketball point guard.

And while it took Johnson a while to adjust to the college game, and despite her recent successes, Prock believes she’s far from being a finished product. “When you look at it, she had to practice against Miranda Moore, and Miranda did a great job for us for a couple of years,” Prock explained.

“Dasia’s having to go up against her every single day in practice, and that helped Dasia’s progression. Just as you get older, the game slows down for you a little bit. I think that’s done that for her, and I think she sees things a lot easier. There’s no doubt her progression is still trending upwards, and her better days are still ahead of her.”

As for the Hounds, better days appear to be ahead for them, as well. Eastern has won four of its last five, heading into today’s matchup at Cameron (4:30 p.m.). And while Prock and company will continue to rely on Connor and Johnson to play a lot of minutes going forward, he still had a ‘blanket statement’ that applies to everyone on the team — “We need everyone to continue to step up.”

 

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