Emily Johnson follows in mother’s footsteps

Jasmine C. Johnson

On Mar. 5, 2011, Emily Johnson scored eight points and tallied four assists in the UIL 5A Texas state championships. As the buzzer sounded, finalizing Georgetown’s 74-51 loss to Irving MacArthur, Emily took in the crowd of 8,937 one last time. The then-high school senior wondered if she’d ever play at the Frank Erwin Center again.

Emily grew up 30 miles away from the Erwin Center and attended many games there with her family. Her mom, dad and brother are all UT alumni. But Emily’s dream to play college basketball took her nearly 1,000 miles away to Colorado State.

After two years as a Ram, Emily needed a change.

“There was a coaching change, and it became a really unhealthy place for me to be in terms of basketball,” Emily said.

Emily transferred and became the fourth member of her family to attend UT, but her basketball future was still undecided.

“I didn’t know if I wanted to play anymore,” Emily said. “I knew that if you play here you can’t be half in — you have to be all in.”

She found a compromise and joined the team as a manager in the fall of 2014. While she had considered walking on, Emily began to take these considerations more seriously over winter break. She wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps.

Debbie Johnson, Emily’s mother, walked on to the 1983–1984 women’s basketball team and played under hall-of-fame coach Jody Conradt.

One day at practice, head coach Karen Aston asked Emily why she wasn’t playing anymore.

“I didn’t have a good answer, and she said they would love to have me on the team,” Emily said. “I guess she could tell I didn’t completely suck.”

Emily proved Aston right the first time she suited up.

“They were all like, ‘It’s about time, Emily,’ and, ‘Took you long enough,’” Emily said.   

Emily said her mother never persuaded her to transfer to UT or walk on, but Debbie said she was happy that her daughter did.

“I was excited and obviously quite proud, as having an opportunity to play at one of the most successful and tradition-strong universities is a blessing,” Debbie said.

Emily has yet to play her first game in burnt orange and white. But Emily and her mother will share the bond of Texas basketball forever.

“This is cool,” Emily said. “I’m kind of ‘like mother, like daughter,’ in a sense.”