There have been two constants in Amari Johnson’s life over the past 10 years — family and basketball.
Usually, the two have gone hand-in-hand for the former Dallastown High School standout.
When those two constants didn’t quite mesh two years ago, Johnson was left at a crossroads.
Johnson was recruited by a number of big-time colleges during her high school days. Eventually that process led her to the University of Rhode Island.
Being so far away from her family, however, was tough. Being in a program that didn’t feel like a great fit made it worse. That left the 5-foot, 10-inch guard/forward with a big decision — should she stay or should she go?
Transferring to Rider: After a great deal of soul-searching, Johnson decided to take her talents closer to home to Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. After sitting out a year because of NCAA Division I transfer rules, the redshirt junior is starting to feel better about her situation.
Johnson is third in scoring at 9.8 points per game for the Broncs, who play in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Rider is off to a 5-7 start, but 1-0 in the MAAC. Johnson leads Rider in rebounding at 6.1 per game.
“Rider recruited me in high school before I made my decision to go to Rhode Island,” Johnson said. “And I decided to transfer to Rider because it was a lot closer to home. I just wanted to be closer to family.”
Rider's campus sits just more than two hours from Dallastown, while Rhode Island is nearly six hours away.
Not an easy decision: The decision to transfer, however, was neither easy nor simple. Having to sit out an entire season presented Johnson with a situation that she had never really expected, nor was prepared to handle.
“It was definitely tough,” she said. “Especially mentally because I just kind of felt like I was just going through the motions. I didn’t have the chance to play in any games and I’ve been playing in games ever since I was in seventh grade. I’ve been playing in games pretty much nonstop up until last year. And that definitely took a toll on me.”
There is no book for how to correctly handle those situations, but Johnson admitted she had some regrets about not focusing more on basketball during her year of ineligibility.
“You’re supposed to take advantage of that time to go to the gym and get stronger,” she said. “But I kind of took that time as more of an academic year and focused more on my school work than basketball.”
Return was challenging: That approach made her return to the roster a bit more challenging.
“It’s definitely taken a lot more for me to get back into (a basketball groove),” she said. “Like, this is a game and you have to be in game-mode all the time so I’ve been in a rut a little bit.”
Johnson, however, is hoping things are on the upswing. After collecting 10 points, five rebounds, four steals and two blocks in a 62-59 victory over Farifield Sunday, Johnson is looking forward to helping the Broncs claim the MAAC title while elevating her game.
“My goals are to make first-team (all-conference) and I want to be recognized for my defense,” she said. “And I’m at (6.1) rebounds (per game) and I would really like to see that number go up.”
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.