COURTSIDE WITH COACH EDMONDS: Looking back at FWCS, SAC and Indiana hoops legends, Part 2

Leslie Johnson (Hoops Hall Photos)

“After transferring to Western Kentucky, she became a 2-time First Team All-Sun Belt Conference player in 1997 and 1998; completing a streak of being named 1st team All-Conference in every full season of High School and College basketball she ever played in…”

COURTSIDE w/ Coach Edmonds”  concludes with the second of this two-part commentary with today looking at the remarkable accomplishments of Fort Wayne legend Leslie Johnson…

Johnson came into Northrop High School from Northwood Middle School with skill, toughness that you couldn’t teach and a maturity that belied her youth. She stood as a giant among her peers and clearly was the best player on her team from 6th grade on but was not the type of person that promoted or brought attention to her play verbally, but instead allowed her talent to speak volumes.

She quietly entered Northrop High School as an unassuming ninth grader and before she left, her footprints were firmly imprinted on 18 career records that have stood for now over 25 years.

In 1993, she exited Northrop by becoming Northeast Indiana’s career scoring record holder with 2,045 points and 1,282 rebounds. That same year she led Northrop to a 25-1 school record averaging 28.4 points per game and 14.1 rebounds, while shooting an amazing 75.1 (yes 75%) from the field. She lead the Bruins to three Sectional and Regional Titles. and appearances in two Semi-State Final games. She became the first Bruin to become a four-time All-SAC team member and, in 1993, was voted USA Today 1st Team All American, 1st Team All State and scored a (then) Indiana record breaking 29 points in the Indiana All-Star Game. 

Upon her graduation, Leslie continued on to an even much more decorated career in college signing to become a part of the Purdue Boilermakers basketball program in West Lafayette, Indiana.

In 1994, she picked right back up where she left off at Northrop and became the first freshman in Big Ten History (men or women’s) to be named 1st Team All- Big Ten. She set Purdue freshman records of 628 points, 243 field goals, 141 free throws, 308 rebounds, and 12 double-doubles (all of which still stand as of today).

Leslie’s 308 rebounds remain the number seven single season mark in scoring of all time at Purdue. Her 243 field goals stands as the number six highest total ever. The 308 rebounds are the third most of rebounds in a single season at Purdue, and her mark of 138 offensive rebounds still stand as number one in Purdue history.

During her freshman season, she was named the team’s Most Valuable Player and lead the Boilermakers to their first ever appearance to the NCAA Women’s Final Four in 1994 while averaging 18.5 points, and 9.1 rebounds per game that season; she was also named the NCAA West Regional Most Outstanding Player. After transferring to Western Kentucky, she became a 2-time First Team All-Sun Belt Conference player in 1997 and 1998, which completed a streak of being named 1st team All-Conference in every full season of High School and College basketball she ever played in.

Let that sink in for a minute before you read on…

Are you starting to comprehend how dominant this young lady was? But wait, I’m not done! In 1997, Leslie would go on to lead Western Kentucky to the NCAA Sweet 16 with averages of 17.9 points, 8.4 rebounds. In 1998, helped Hilltoppers win the Sun Belt Conference Championship. She would become the first player in Western Kentucky history to score over 1,000 points in just two seasons of basketball with 1,079 points. Her senior year 628 points was the second highest total ever by Western Kentucky player.

After her collegiate career ended, Johnson went on to become the first. player from Fort Wayne, Indiana to play in the WNBA when she played for the Washington Mystics in 1998. She would continue her career playing professional basketball overseas between 1998 and 2002, signing to teams in Greece, Turkey, Israel, South Korea, Portugal and Spain before eventually retiring from basketball in 2002 after an 11-year playing career.

Leslie is currently an active member of the (NBRPA) National Basketball Retired Players Association, exclusive to only former WNBA, NBA, and Harlem Globetrotter Players. And in 2017, she was voted in by the NBRPA players, as the only female member to represent them in a group designated to create opportunities for former players, streamline budget initiatives, and establish better partnerships with the community. 

She is also the owner of her own company Hushed No More, LLC. where she gives back to her community as a motivational and inspirational speaker and life coach. Leslie, we applaud your accomplishments and look at you and Tiffany Gooden as the standard by which our current players should be measured. “Greatness Personified,” that describes Leslie Johnson, a 2019 Indiana Hall of Fame inductee.

READ ALSO: Part One of this series on Snider legend Tiffany Gooden

Keith Edmonds is a veteran of teaching and school administration from Fort Wayne. He coached boys high school basketball as an assistant at Snider High School, North Side High School and was the head boys basketball coach at Elmhurst High School for 12 years, advancing to the Class 3A State championship in 2003. Courtside with Coach Edmonds will appear monthly during basketball season at Outside the Huddle. These opinions represent those of the writer. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. 

1 Comment

  1. Keith,

    What a great article for such a fantastic Fort Wayne Basketball player and legend! Having had the pleasure to coach her in middle school, and then to watch her succeed in her career, was a wonderful opportunity. One thing about Leslie is that she was so kind.
    On the basketball court, that was a different story.
    Thanks for taking the time to write about her.

    Phil Didier

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