Jeniece Johnson overcomes staggering circumstances

If this doesn’t inspire you, nothing will:

After the academic year, Oliver drove Jeniece to summer school every day and she started taking classes seriously. She says she also quit smoking and drinking, and separated herself from the people who did. She said she told her friends, “Don’t get mad at me if I stop talking to y’all. I got to do what I got to do.”

Jeniece’s grade-point average during her repeat freshman year had been 0.26, in part because she had been placed in sophomore-level classes. In the 2006-07 academic year, with classes ranging from freshman to junior level, she earned a 2.33. When the season started, she made the team.

From there, her improvement was “dramatic,” Oliver says.

“She went from not being able to make a layup to finishing with either hand. Jump hooks in the post. Running the floor. . . . She had good hands. And any coach will you tell you any post player with good hands can go a long way.”

As Jeniece came off the bench to help H.D. Woodson win its second straight D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association championship, her transformation extended beyond basketball.

“Before Jeniece had basketball, she was just . . . out there,” said her godmother, Angie Green, with whom Jeniece lived during her sophomore year. “I thought she was going to be lost. And once she got in the mode of basketball, basketball, everything changed. . . . It’s basketball practice, homework, sleep and do it all over again.”


I interviewed Johnson and her teammates on the phone last fall for a piece I was doing on them. Johnson seems like she has it together now.