Humble Summer Creek senior Maliayah Johnson could become the first Texas A&M women’s basketball player to perform with the Aggie Dance Team during timeouts.
The 6-foot-3 forward pledged to sign with the Aggies this week. Last season’s Houston Chronicle All-Greater Houston player of the year became one of the nation’s best high school basketball players because she could keep a beat.
“I love to dance,” Johnson said. “I really think my dancing is how my footwork has gotten to the way it is, because I love to dance. If I didn’t play basketball, I’d probably be a dancer.”
Johnson took Summer Creek to the state’s biggest stage for the first time last season as the Lady Bulldogs lost to DeSoto 58-49 in the Class 6A state semifinals. Summer Creek, coming off that 33-7 record-setting season, is ranked fourth in 6A by the Texas High School Coaches Association heading into the season.
Johnson is the biggest reason why. She averaged 14.2 points per game in the playoffs last year, including 20 points in a 72-63 triple-overtime victory over Westside that sent Summer Creek to the state tournament.
Johnson plays power forward, but she can just as easily play small forward.
“I’m a walking mismatch,” Johnson said, citing her size, quickness and ball-handling ability. “It doesn’t matter who you guard me with. I’ve got something for everybody.”
Her confidence is contagious.
“She’s such a strong verbal leader, because she wants to be the best, so she demands that from her team as well,” Summer Creek coach Carlesa Dixon said. “She certainly helps get our team where it needs to be. She knows the game and knows everything like a true point guard would know it. Her communication skills are absolutely wonderful.”
Johnson needs to continue working on building up strength and body control, which will allow her to be more of a force inside, Dixon said.
“If she does those two things, the sky is the limit for her,” Dixon said.
The nation’s No. 81 prospect by ESPN’s HoopGurlz also visited Colorado, Texas and Missouri. She is A&M’s second known commitment in the class of 2020, joining point guard Kayla Green of Chicago’s Whitney Young High School who is ranked 49th. Johnson played on the same team with Green in Chicago as a youth.
“Everybody kept telling me when you know, you’ll know,” Johnson said of the recruiting process. “And when I went to A&M, it just felt so much like home. It felt like the place I should be at.”
Johnson said she will major in criminal justice and psychology.
She wants to be a crime scene investigator or forensics psychologist, maybe dancing her way to solving crimes.
“I’m versatile in all dancing,” said Johnson, who took ballet lessons for two years and hip-hop dancing for another year at Chicago’s Mayfair Academy.
Most players model themselves after someone, but not Johnson.
“She is completely different,” Dixon said. “She’s just different with her height and the skill she has.”
Johnson, who is left-handed, changes hands in practice and seemingly doesn’t miss a beat, Dixon said. “She’s just a special player who can do a lot of different things.”
Johnson is all business on the court, but she has a lighter side.
“Besides being goofy, what does she do best?” Dixon joked. “Because that’s probably the best thing she does.”