Stepping up and taking charge is not new to Bloom Township sophomore Anika Johnson.
However, being a leader on the basketball court has been a more recent phenomenon.
With Bloom's best player, Kat Strong, out with a torn ACL, and junior guard Danielle King lost to turf toe for 12 games, Johnson had to step in and lead a young team.
Her response: Johnson has 16 double-doubles and is averaging 17.5 points and 8.24 rebounds per game.
Her experience in leadership comes from involvement with her church, Victory Christian International Ministries in Markham. Johnson is in the youth choir, but has been a part of different community projects. She helped build a house for a family, along with other youth from her church, and said it was a great experience for a young person.
"You realize there is more than throwing up some walls and plaster," Johnson said. "All those tools, cutting two-by-fours, nailing and making sure everything was just right. It was hard work, but it made you realize a lot of things. You realize you were helping a family get a home and you realize how fortunate you are. To be in that position to help others means you are fortunate yourself.
"It is great to think you did that, but it is greater to think about how you helped someone by helping build them their own house."
She also helped fix up a playground at Chicago Heights' Lions Club Park. She said ti too was a labor of love.
"You are giving back to the community and you are providing a place for the younger kids," Johnson said. "That is something I don't normally get to do. It is outside of basketball and if you want to be a leader, you have take charge and get involved with your faith."
On the court, Johnson said she was a little nervous when put in the the leadership role, but accepted it.
"You have to trust your faith, your teammates and go out and do it," Johnson said. "I got a lot of help from Kat and Danny. They told me to not be nervous, go out and take charge.
"It was tough, but it was my job to go out there and get rebounds and make sure everyone on the court played together."
There were some growing pains as the team struggled to a 7-10 start, but Johnson said she grew up fast.
"I know what it takes to be a leader and that is only going to help me down the road," Johnson said. "Off the court, my job was to maybe say, 'Hey, let's get together and go out tonight' for some pizza or for us to just hang out. Things that help a team bond."