PORTAGE | The long, stressful college recruitment process is finally over for Alexis Johnson — with a twist ending few saw coming.
Known for her star power on the softball field, the Portage senior surprised just about everyone when she committed to Purdue Calumet to play basketball. What started as a way to stay in shape during the offseason has become a passion for Johnson, who is off to a hot start to the season averaging 12 points per game for the Indians.
“It feels really good (to start well) because I feel like I’m leading my team,” Johnson said. “I feel like if I’m doing good then they’re going to see me doing good and they’re going to put in the extra effort.
“Since I’m going to college to play basketball, I’ve been working hard to prepare myself for college basketball. I just want to set a better example for the younger ones on the team to show them how to be a leader for next year.”
Portage holds a 2-1 record after a close loss at Lowell on Friday night, and coach Chris Seibert knows that Johnson’s performance will continue to have a major impact on the Indians this season.
“Alexis kind of came into her own at the end of last season and the start of this season,” Seibert said. “She had a great summer and put a lot of time in. She’s done a great job to start the year and we really expect a lot from her.”
Despite seeing how much Johnson has grown as a basketball player, Seibert was still surprised when he heard the senior had made a commitment to play college basketball instead of softball.
“I think everyone was shocked because of, obviously, the success she’s had on the softball diamond as well as the time she’s put into it,” Seibert said. “I knew she really enjoyed the game of basketball. When she started to blossom at the end of last year, I think she saw the potential in herself that we as coaches had seen in her all along.
"I was shocked, but I was also happy. She seems really excited and content with the decision, so now we just want to see her have a great year in basketball, a great year in softball and then enjoy playing college basketball.”
A captain on the Portage softball team, Johnson will finish out her high school career on the diamond in the spring before hanging up the spikes — a concept that continues to catch people off guard.
“Everyone is really surprised I’m going to college to play basketball. They’re all like, ‘Oh, I thought you going to college to play softball’ and I just say that I’ve changed my mind,” Johnson said. “Coach (Seibert) has really made me love basketball. It’s just grown on me. I love playing it now.”
For now, Johnson isn’t considering playing softball in college as a two-sport athlete. Her focus is on basketball, and on improving as a basketball player.
"I definitely have to get a lot faster and get my shot up a lot faster. I definitely have to get a lot stronger,” Johnson said. “Hopefully, during the summer, during my offseason, I can work on those goals and get a lot better.”
Seibert expects to see Johnson improve even more this basketball season and be a formidable piece of the Purdue Calumet program in the future.
“She can score in a variety of ways, as well as affect the game on the defensive end,” Seibert said. “If she can be that consistent player that she seems to be, we expect a lot of great things for her.”