Jaye Johnson Arrived Primed to Have Immediate Impact on Cowgirl Basketball in 2020-21

Tracy Ringolsby

From the desk of Sean O'Sullivan/Wyoming Athletic Department

LARAMIE – The Cowgirls had five newcomers last season. One of them, Jaye Johnson, spent the previous two years at Casper College. So, while she was new to the Cowgirls, she wasn’t new to college basketball. Those two years helped her contribute right away in the Brown and Gold.

“It was good, I’d say,” said Johnson of her time at Casper College. “There was some challenges in my freshman year, but in my sophomore year, it helped me evolve as a player. It helped me become a better player and teammate all around.”

As a sophomore in Casper, Johnson averaged 11.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game, reaching double figure scoring 21 times. She made the All-Regional Defensive Team and was named to the NJCAA Region IX All-Tournament team after averaging 9.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game during the five-game tournament.

Her rebounding and defense translated immediately to Division I.

“Looking back, I think she was the difference in some of our games (last year),” said head coach Gerald Mattinson. “She had a couple of good games defensively, rebounding and scoring. She made some very big plays for us that made the difference in a couple of games.”

During the 2019-20 season, Johnson had her best statistical games against Mississippi Valley State at home with five points, two assists and four rebounds, and against Colorado State on the road when she scored four points and collected two rebounds.

“The Colorado State game, I maybe played 15 minutes, but I think I helped out a lot in that game. In the end, he put me in, and I had a key free throw that really helped us out in the end.”

The free throw Johnson made was with 13 seconds left, and it put UW up by three points. It forced a long, contested shot from the Rams that did not go in. She also made a three-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer that gave the Cowgirls a one-point lead heading into the final frame.

While Johnson definitely helped the Cowgirls on the court during games, Mattinson said it’s what she did in practice that made the biggest impact.

“I thought Jaye did exactly what we thought Jaye would do,” Mattinson said. “She came in, first of all, before games event started, and gave us everything and practiced hard every day. She pushed everybody and got herself better. That not only helps get yourself better, but that pushes your competition and your teammates to have to play at a higher rate, so that helps everybody.”

And once the season started, Johnson knew her role and played her part on the team. This philosophy was something she learned from her time at Casper College.

“I just needed to know my role there, and therefore I just need to know my role here. Last year, I wasn’t really a big, main player, but I knew sometimes, somebody would need a break. I’d just play my hardest until they were ready to go again.”

Coming into the 2020-21 season, Johnson is one of just two seniors on the Cowgirls. Wyoming will have eight new players on this year’s team, and Johnson is ready to help all of them get better.

“I think my goal this year is more of trying to find my role again,” Johnson said. “We lost a lot of good people, so I want to be a good teammate, help the new people out and become better for the team.”

Johnson is also one of three Cowgirls, along with Tommi Olson and Quinn Weidemann, to return to Laramie for summer workouts.

“It’s hard to say how far people will go,” Mattinson said. “(This year) I hope she gets a little bit stronger, understand the system a little better, refines her game into the system a little more and plays more physical on a more regular basis. Then we’ll see what happens from that point.”

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