Johnson drives to the basket while being defended by a Midland player. Photo courtesy of Mesa Athletic Department.

Jayla Johnson the quiet assassin

Mesa Community College guard Jayla Johnson was named Arizona Community College Athletic Conference player of the week three times within the span of January 3rd to February 6th.

Johnson had an incredible six game stretch in January where she averaged 12.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, and nearly 2 assists per game while playing over 25 minutes per contest. It seems to be no coincidence Johnson’s hot streak came during the team’s five game winning streak. 

Johnson isn’t the type to let the crowd know when she makes an and-one, or yell in the face of her opponent when she nails a dagger three. Instead, she tends to be more of a quiet assassin according to her assistant coach Sam Stevens.

“She’s the quiet assassin, we played Glandale and we were wondering how many points Jayla had and we thought it was a quiet 15 or something and we looked and she ended up having 23,” said Stevens. 

Johnson is the second youngest of six children and grew up playing tennis, softball, as well as basketball. She stuck to playing on the hardwood because of how fun the game is, as well as the connection it provides for her and her siblings who also play. 

Johnson, growing up in a larger family, was always surrounded by those closest to her. This still holds true today. On a regular occasion, Johnson’s family will be in the stands cheering her and her teammates on. 

“I’m a real big family person, I love being around my family. I like to always have them in my presence and to be in theirs,” said Johnson. 

There are many things that go into a player being successful, no matter what sport they play. Whether that be incredible athleticism, or playing smarter than your opponents, all elite players have an edge that helps them become successful. Johnson attributes her success to the “next play” mentality she possesses. 

“There are a lot of plays that happen where I can just give up, instead I choose to just keep going and have short term memory on the bad plays,” said Johnson. 

Johnson graduated from Maricopa High School in 2019 and hoped to be able to attend a four year university, but instead elected to attend MCC in order to continue her basketball journey. 

“I wanted to try to get to a four year school, but you have to take different roads to get where you want. But in the end I’m glad Mesa was the school that chose me,” said Johnson.

One of the most difficult things high school players have to adjust to when making the jump to collegiate basketball is the speed of the game. In Johnson’s case, it wasn’t the speed of the game that was challenging, but mastering the fundamentals of it.

“The speed I was fine with, but learning the fundamentals was a challenge, learning to jump stop in the right direction,” said Johnson, “Especially to feed the post, because in high school we didn’t have post so I didn’t know how to enter the ball there.”

Luckily, Johnson has one of the best Junior college coaching staffs in the state to learn from. Coach Kori Stephenson in particular has helped her grow as a player and as a person since coming to MCC in 2019. 

“She’s had a big impact on me, she knows the game very well. Her teaching me what she knows about the game has helped my game as well,” said Johnson, “She has also helped me step out of my comfort zone a little more this year.”

One of the biggest obstacles she faces, both on and off the court, is being partially deaf. Just like her father, Johnson was born without hair follicles in the ear which has left her completely deaf in her right ear. 

While it seems like that would be a huge disadvantage in the game of basketball, given how much communication is done verbally, Johnson has adapted well to listening with one ear.

Johnson already has her Associate’s degree in political science and is currently looking to earn a degree in either fashion or holistic medicines. She hopes to one day work in the holistic medicine field and help those in need with an alternative to conventional medicine. 

Going toward the stretch run of the season, Johnson and her team have their eyes on the prize as they look to secure a top seed in the postseason and make a deep run.