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Originally published Monday, March 14, 2011 at 9:22 PM

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Holy Names' Erika Johnson is Seattle Times' girls player of the year

Erika Johnson, who has signed with California, led Holy Names to its first Class 3A state championship. The athletically gifted Johnson was equally adept shooting a jumper or handing out an assist.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Erika Johnson envisions a creative career.

She sees herself drawing blue prints that turn into an architectural piece of art. Growing up, she loved tagging along after her father, Tony, a building project manager, marveling as various visions took concrete shape.

It would be a most fitting job for one of the state's most creative basketball players.

Johnson, a 6-foot-1 senior, was willing to do whatever it took to lead Holy Names to its first Class 3A state championship this season. In any given game, she could score 20-some points, pull down a dozen or more rebounds, hit double digits in assists — or all three — with a sufficient amount of steals and blocks sprinkled in as well.

"She's such a load to deal with," Prairie coach Al Aldridge said.

Johnson's all-around efforts make her a clear choice as The Seattle Times' girls Player of the Year.

She has been the Cougars' reluctant star, as eager to pass off accolades as she is to dish the basketball.

"For as talented as she is, she's one of the most unassuming kids we've ever had," coach Lee Adams said.

On the court, she's like a time bomb waiting to explode.

"She sits back and waits for the right moment," Aldridge said. "She makes great choices."

Johnson, who has signed with Cal, said she rarely felt the need to score more points.

"I know that I'm capable of doing more, but it never seemed like it was necessary to do at the time," she said. "I'm going to do what's needed when it's needed. I feel like that's kind of special. I've seen (that) not everyone can do that. It feels good to put other people in a position to shine. Not everybody has the gifts that I have."

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Those athletic gifts could have been used to excel in sports like tennis or golf, which she played as a youngster, but Johnson chose to concentrate on basketball by about fourth grade — in part because of the team aspect.

"I think team sports build character," she said.

She played for her father, whose basketball career included a professional stint in Europe, then spent the past three seasons with the Tree of Hope AAU program and got the opportunity to travel more extensively.

At Holy Names, Johnson developed into a leader and also worked to continue developing her skills on the court.

When she saw friends Mercedes Wetmore from Auburn Riverside and Lindsey Moore from Kentwood earn player-of-the-year honors, she almost didn't dare to believe her turn might come this season.

"It's almost like a fairy tale," Johnson said.

Sandy Ringer: 206-718-1512 or sringer@seattletimes.com

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