CHICKASHA – Familiar with the Sooner Athletic Conference and NAIA women’s basketball, Leandra Johnson is excited to begin her first assistant coaching position with the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.

“She’s young at heart and spirit so I think she’ll really relate to the players well,” head coach Laci Tompkins said. “But she just has a poise and professionalism about her that is very exceptional.”

Johnson, who joins the Drovers after spending two years as a graduate assistant at Northwestern Oklahoma State, played for head coach Laci Tompkins at Redlands Community College before playing two seasons at Northwestern.

Johnson plans to continue with her masters program while coaching at USAO. She is just eight hours away from completing it.

“This is what I want to do, and this is going to help me get started with what I want to do,” Johnson said. “I’m looking forward to helping Coach Tompkins build this program.”
The position opened after former assistant coach Carey Phariss took the assistant coaching position at Northwestern in the summer. Phariss will coach there while earning his master’s degree as well.

“I loved my time at USAO, but it was an opportunity I just couldn’t pass up,” Phariss said.

As a former graduate assistant, Johnson has experience with some of what being the assistant entails, including dealing with the camera, helping with practice and driving the team, she said. But it’s the bigger aspects of the job, like the recruiting trips, she’s most looking forward to in her new position.

“I know I need to be more enthusiastic at practice,” she said. “If we as coaches are enthusiastic in practice, the girls will be too.”

Tompkins said Johnson has already proven herself in her new position.

“She goes above and beyond in the job already creating new ideas and avenues to take things, and she just goes with it and adds to it,” Tompkins said. “Those are some really great qualities I really appreciate in her.”

After playing post at Redlands for Tompkins, Johnson transferred to Northwestern, originally to become a nurse. It quickly became clear she’d have to choose between basketball and nursing, and her choice was her sport. She graduated with a bachelor’s in health and sports science in 2009.

Her ultimate goal is to become a head coach somewhere at the college level.

Johnson said she and Tompkins have the same philosophy when it comes to coaching.

“Not only do we have basketball in common, but we also want to make the players better people,” Johnson said. “We want them to realize, yeah you’re here to play basketball but your education is No. 1.”

Published: Sept. 13, 2011