From London to St. Bonaventure

in SPORTS/Women's basketball by

Americans and Brits may speak the same language, but take it from Abigail Johnson’s first-hand experience: the transition to living here is not easy.
The freshman women’s basketball player came to the Bonnies from London. The 6-foot 2-inch forward represented Great Britain at the 2017 FIBA U20 European Women’s Championship, but she decided to trade the Union Jack for a Bonnies jersey for the next four years.
“I had no idea about this school,” Johnson said. “I was playing in Europe, in Israel, and I got a call from my coach saying that this school was interested in me. I was like, ‘Okay, I’ll check it out.’”
Johnson is a health science major and has aspirations to be a nutritionist. Johnson said she has decided she would like to stay in the United States after graduation, although she added she would prefer to move somewhere other than the area.
Assistant women’s basketball coach Andrea Mulcahy found Johnson by researching the Women’s British Basketball League, in which Johnson played for Barking Abbey, averaging 7.6 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.
“I reached out to former Bonnies [women’s basketball] player Stef Collins who coaches and plays [in England] and asked for some more information on Abigail,” Mulcahy said. “She connected me to her coach, and that was the start of us building a relationship with [Johnson.]”
Johnson arrived on campus last year to visit, and the same day committed to play for head coach Jesse Fleming. She said the small atmosphere was a big part of the decision, as she did not see herself at a large university.
“I wasn’t sure if I would like being at a big school because I’m a very quiet person myself,” Johnson said. “My mum came with me, and she thought this was the right place for me to be, and I thought the same thing as well.”
London and St. Bonaventure are two very different places, though, and Johnson found the transition from a large metropolitan area to a smaller city a bit challenging at first.
“Coming from the city to this place was a huge difference for me and just learning to get used to the idea that I can’t just get on a bus or a train and go wherever I want to go like I did in London,” Johnson said. “Just trying to adjust to everything, like all the schoolwork is a lot”
Another big transition Johnson has had to adjust to is the American diet.
“I heard the food here is good, but it’s not,” Johnson said. “That was a big shock to me. My mum and my friends back home are like, ‘Freshmen gain 15 pounds because the food is so good,’ and I just don’t see it. That was a big shock.”
However, the biggest change for Johnson is the reason she came to St. Bonaventure in the first place: basketball.
Johnson said the pace of the American game is much quicker than that of England. While England is not slow, it is nowhere near as quick as in the States. In addition, she said the game feels a lot more structured than at home.
“There’s so many plays you need to remember, and in London, it was more like just free play, and just go with it,” Johnson said. “That took awhile for me to get used to, and I’m still learning to get used to the style of play here, but it’s pretty different.”
One perk that Johnson has found is the passion of the American basketball fans. She said in England, while fans would come to the games, it is nothing like playing in front of Bonnies fans in the Reilly Center.
“At first, I was very nervous playing in front of such huge crowds, and the student section is just crazy,” Johnson said. “Everyone knows about that. There’s more energy here. It’s still taking me a while to get used to playing in front of huge crowds where everyone knows you on campus. You don’t want to have bad games.”
Despite some injuries suffered throughout the season, Johnson is back and making an impact, recording a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds in the Feb. 4 game against George Washington University.
“I think she showed us this weekend the player she is capable of being and this is just the start,” Mulcahy said. “The hope is she can stay healthy and continue to improve and gain confidence through her play the rest of the season. I think with hard work, she can be a great player for us in the future.”
Upon coming to St. Bonaventure, Johnson set a high goal for herself, and her play during her first season shows she is well on her way to achieving that goal.
“I came to this school and decided I wanted to be the A10 leader in rebounds,” Johnson said. “That’s what I do. I believe everyone has a gift, and that’s what I’ve always been good at. So that’s something that I’ve got my mind set on.”
Although Johnson has missed a decent portion of the season, along with a couple of her other teammates, she believes the team is still capable of great things in the remaining games.
“I believe there’s still hope, and I want to be a part of that this season even though we haven’t got many games left,” Johnson said.

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