By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
Benton senior and basketball standout Kelsey Johnson is furthering her playing career after high school in black and gold.
Johnson verbally committed to Missouri Western women’s basketball in early fall and signed her NLI Wednesday afternoon.
Johnson, who has helped the Cardinals to back-to-back district titles and back-to-back Final Four appearances, says getting to play her favorite sport at the college level in her hometown is a dream come true.
"I was very impressed with all of the coaches and players," Johnson said of her visit to Missouri Western. "And I love the idea of being close to home. I'm just excited I'll get to play in front of a hometown crowd, too. I love St. Joe, and they always have a huge turnout at games."
Benton girls' basketball coach Chris Michaels, entering his third season with the Cardinals, says the Griffons are gaining a multi-faceted player and a person with a tremendous work ethic.
"She is a gym rat," Michaels said. "If you have a definition of gym rat, it's Kelsey Johnson. So, (MWSU coach Candi Whitaker) is getting a great worker. Somebody who will do whatever is asked. If you need someone to sweep the floor and you ask KJ to do it, she's going to do it. If someone needs a water, she's going to do that. If you need someone to score 40 points, she's going to go try and do that."
Johnson has also garnered all-city, district, conference and all-state honors each of the last two seasons, leading Benton in points per game the last two years.
She helped lead the Cardinals to a second place finish in Class 4 this past spring.
With her senior season just around the corner, Johnson is hopeful for another deep run this coming winter and spring.
"Yeah, I'm excited for my last year," she said. "Hopefully, we can make it back to state again and I'm excited to see what happens."
With the return of other key players like Avery Morlock, Andrea Simmons and Peyton Anderson, Michaels says this year's version of Benton girls' basketball will look a lot like it has before, especially on defense, but they're working on new wrinkles to help them get back to the championship game.
"It'll be different and we'll look different," Michaels remarked. "The press (defense) is still going to be there. The press is coming and the defense is coming, but how our mentality is, is a tad bit different. That has started with our senior class and specifically, KJ."
After the city jamboree on November 18, Benton opens its season at St. Joseph Central on November 22.
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