WATSON – By the time she finally picked up a basketball for the first time and tried out for a competitive team, Harmony Johnson was cut.
That was in the seventh grade at Live Oak Middle School, leaving Johnson with one alternative.
“I tried out the next year and made it,” she said. “I was bored at home the year before and one day my sister said I should go and watch the tryouts for the basketball team.”
Johnson, now a senior at Live Oak High School, admittedly was a kid who preferred staying at home and watching television during her youth, going outside only to play with her friends.
There wasn’t a hint of any athletic interests in her life until the sixth grade, when Johnson ran middle school track, but that was the extent of it.
And as far as for basketball?
If her friends were playing in the neighborhood and needed an extra player, Johnson joined in without any true knowledge of the game or purpose on the court.
“I’d get out there and didn’t really care,” she said. “I just threw it up there so they would have an extra person on the team. I never played it before. I didn’t know what I was doing.”
Fast-forward from those humbling beginnings to where Johnson is concluding a distinguished four-year career with Live Oak’s basketball program as the Lady Eagles face Thibodaux in the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs at 6 p.m. Thursday.
It’s been quite a ride from basketball novice to four-year letterman and three-year starter as Johnson’s earned all-district and all-parish recognition.
“Harmony does a lot for us,” fourth-year Live Oak coach Michele Yawn said of the 5-foot-11 Johnson, whom she described as a utility player. “She can guard a guard because she’s so long and can make them adjust their shot. She’ll also have to bang in the post against girls who are 25 pounds heavier than her.”
Johnson’s face still exhibits the same anxiety she felt four years ago at the prospect of having to come off the bench as a timid freshman and play against veteran post players.
She would generously decline Yawn’s offer to go into games at the thought of possibly getting hurt.
“She would pray no one would get in foul trouble so I wouldn’t put her in the game,” Yawn said. “She would always say, ‘next game coach. Next game’.”
Johnson can only shake her head and laugh at those past moments.
“Going from middle school to high school, you wouldn’t think it would be like playing against kids to grown women, but it was,” she said. “I would beg coach not to put me in my freshman year.”
Now she couldn’t imagine coming out of the Lady Eagles’ lineup.
Johnson has served in a variety of roles from being a complimentary scorer (14 points per game) to the team’s top scorer – Dijone’ Flowers – to a primarily ball handler against full-court pressure, point guard, rebounder and team leader.
“She’s definitely a team player,” Yawn said. “She puts the team before herself and that warms my heart.”
Six years after seriously picking up a basketball for the first time, Johnson’s at peace with the next chapter of her life.
Upon graduation, Johnson said her next move will be to join the National Guard and attend college with an eye on becoming a social worker, thus leaving basketball behind for good.
“It’s been fun, she said. “I’ve met people that I’ve built relationships with that will probably last a lifetime. I’ve had good coaches. I think everything comes to an end for a reason at a certain point. I guess when it’s over, it’s over.”
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