When it comes to bouncing back in the face of a adversity, Ipswich Force forward Amanda Johnson, or ‘AJ’ as she is known, truly walks the walk. Through her displays on and off the court she is showing her raw ability and sheer talent that would be invaluable to any WNBL side.
Entering the ninth round of her debut QBL season, the Californian native is laying it all on the line and it has gone a long way for the squad’s success so far – sitting second on the ladder with eight wins from nine games.
“Coming back to basketball has been about claiming my life back for myself. The feeling I have of coming home has been super monumental in my healing journey,” AJ enthused.
“To be able to come back to the sport I love – I don’t think I can put that feeling into words. To say how meaningful, it has been in terms of my life and my story.”
The 28-year-old found her love of the game from her parents, both former players. She went on to play for the University of Oregon; the Suns traded their pick in the 2012 WNBA draft which led to her being recruited by the Phoenix Mercury. Her career in Phoenix lasted three weeks after suffering a bad concussion, which led to her being waived. She bounced back to pursue a European professional career in Bulgaria and Switzerland, where she was named league MVP.
She walked away from the sport in 2014, with her exile lastimg until November 2017. Sitting down with her is an opportunity one will never forget; motivation and a positive attitude beams from her instantly.
“I was coaching when I reached out to a few people and said ‘hey I think I can still do this,’ and set my mind to it and started training again – with no idea where I would end up,” she explained.
The opportunity to play for Ipswich came after the she sent some old tape to Brad George (Ipswich Force women’s coach), who disregarded the fact she had not played competitively for that period.
His team is in transition, and in their new import, the Force have found an integral piece which will help them move further into the playoffs (after being eliminated in the 2017 quarter finals). Ipswich play a fast-paced tempo that showcases how they have clicked this season, continuing to find ways to beat anyone.
Entering the season, her name came with growing whispers surrounding MVP favouritism, even before hitting the hardwood in the state league; she has shown that she oozes talent across the court, while continuing to fill the stat sheet, including a whopping 15.75 rebounds per game (150 for the season). AJ has found a home in Ipswich and feels passionate about how greatly the city has embraced her.
“I hope to be involved in Ipswich as much as possible,” she further added. “I coach a team on Mondays, I run a clinic for primary school kids and have so many other opportunities around basketball here also.”
Round 10 will be massive for Ipswich when the squad hosts a double-header at Llewellyn Stadium, Bundamba. On Saturday, 30 June (5:00pm) they host the Sunshine Coast Phoenix who sit third on the ladder and boast star former Opals Abby Bishop and Nat Hurst. They form a formidable and combination who have ten WNBL championships between them. On Sunday, 1 July (12:00pm), they clash with the South West Metro Pirates who are fourth on the ladder and whose squad includes current Opal Nicole Seekamp and former Tall Ferns star Nat Taylor.
“The back end of the season comes with some challenges for us when we will be up against teams who have done things that we haven’t had to face before,” AJ further explained. “It is competitive challenges like that which we are really looking forward to.”
A return to Europe could be on the cards at season’s end, but the star is motivated to pursue possibilities that keep her in Australia.
“I really love this country and if I can convince a WNBL side to let me hang around and show them what I’ve got, I would love to do that. To be able to show that I have still got it and can still play like that is very empowering.”
“I feel rejuvenated being able to step back onto the court and compete at this level. I will keep playing until the opportunities run out or my body gives out.”
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You can watch 2018 QBL action live and free online: check the schedule for dates and times.