Thursday, June 2, 2011


The following is an article written by Hunter Paniagua of the Times-Picayune:

The brutal Russian winter has often been credited for the failures of military invasions, most notably causing the downfall of Napoleon's army.

But blizzards and subzero temperatures didn't deter Temeka Johnson, a Kenner native and former LSU Lady Tiger, from succeeding in her stint in the Russian Premier Basketball League. Johnson, the starting point guard for the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury, braved the bitter cold and led Dynamo Kursk to the league championship series, where it lost to Nadezhda Orenburg in a three-game series.

Johnson said she stepped well out of her comfort zone to play in Russia, especially in communicating with Russian teammates and a Lithuanian head coach that spoke English but reverted to his native tongue in tight situations.

Like many other American players, Johnson journeyed overseas with hopes of making extra money during the offseason. But the experience resulted in more than just monetary gains.

"It gave me the opportunity to get to know myself and grow as a young woman," said Johnson, 28. "I embraced it and accepted it. I learned a lot from it. It was definitely good for me to go over there.

"It gave me the time to sit back and reflect on everything. It took me away from my comfort zone and allowed me to step away and actually see things for what they were and reflect on everything I was doing in my life."

Now back in the United States, Johnson's Mercury tip off the 2011 season Saturday against the Seattle Storm looking to return to the glory it experienced in their 2009 championship season.

Mercury Coach Corey Gaines said the team's success depends on Johnson's leadership. Gaines compares her to the lead dog in a sled race.

"We go as fast as she goes," Gaines said. "The way she goes is the way we go. In our system, the point guard pushes the pace, and if she's not going fast, we're not going fast."

Johnson understands her role and embraces leading her pack.

Read the entire article: