by: Shane Thomas
The words ‘torn ACL’ are perhaps the most feared words in sports. For Valdosta State Lady Blazers guard-forward Maylisa Johnson, those words have been a little too familiar.
Johnson missed all of the 2012-13 season after undergoing a second ACL surgery on her left knee and finds herself working to get back into game shape for her senior season.
“Physically, I’ve been going hard,” Johnson said. “I went hard in the summer and when I was out with my ACL. Each and every day is a battle but as the days go on I’m getting better and stronger.”
Johnson, a self-proclaimed professional shopper away from the floor, admits that rehabbing the injury has been tough on her mentally.
“The rehab process was very tough,” Johnson said. “This was my second ACL surgery so I knew what to expect but mentally, I got down a lot. Physically, it wasn’t that hard but it was mostly a mental thing.”
In 2011-12, Johnson started all 30 games for the Lady Blazers, averaging 5.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game, which led the team and tied for the Gulf South Conference lead.
“My goal is to make my teammates better every day in practice,” Johnson said. “I just want to be tough every single game.”
“I’m more of a distributor—I like to get the team going and excited. I have a lot of energy so that’s what I bring to the table.”
The Okmulgee, Okla. native was a key piece to a team that finished 22-8 and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in 2011-12.
Head coach Kiley Hill expects Johnson to be a force in the upcoming campaign.
“May just brings an intensity and competitive spirit,” Hill said. “She can play multiple positions for us. As long as she stays healthy, she does some very good things for us, on and off the floor.”
Despite a few new faces this season, Hill believes that Johnson will fit in seamlessly with this collection of players.
“We had a lot of injuries last year,” Hill said. “We’re returning 10 players and we’ve signed four new kids.”
“May knows how to mold within that group and can morph into what the team needs. That’s a major positive for her coming back.”
Last season, the Lady Blazers showed signs of slippage, finishing 16-11 and failed to duplicate their Sweet Sixteen run from the previous season.
Hill and Johnson like the potential of what they can accomplish this season.
“There are things we do every single year that are consistent to our purpose,” Hill said. “We want to be GSC tournament champions—which gives us an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament and we want to compete for a national championship.”
“I feel like this team can be unstoppable,” Johnson added. “As long as everybody does their best each and every day, nobody can stop us. We’re the only people that can stop us.”