Why LSU’s Flau’jae Johnson is one of the best personalities in women’s college basketball

ALBANY, N.Y. — Flau’jae Johnson ran to the LSU bench, throwing her fist against her chest and shouting in celebration with her teammates.

Standing at just 5’9”, she’d just deflected a shot attempt from 6’4” UCLA forward Angela Dugalić in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter to all but seal the Tigers’ win and a berth in the Elite Eight. But that wasn’t her only big moment of the game.

With just over a minute and a half to go in the game with LSU leading 68-67, Johnson was on UCLA star guard Kiki Rice. Fighting through a screen as Rice drove to the basket, Johnson stayed with her and got a hand on the ball before it met the rim and even drew the charge — a deflating moment for the Bruins.

Angel Reese threw her arms around Johnson immediately afterward in an embrace. It was Johnson’s 24 points and 12 rebounds that helped get the Tigers over the line, particularly when Reese fouled out of the game minutes later.

LSU will now face Iowa on Monday night for a spot in the Women’s Final Four in Cleveland on April 5.

Johnson has taken a bit of a leap in her second year with LSU after bursting onto the scene as a freshman during last season’s run to the NCAA title. Almost all of her averages have risen as a sophomore, particularly as a scorer. She averages 14.7 points per game while shooting 39.5% from long range.

The scoring was important against the Bruins, but her work on the glass was perhaps more so. Reese said after their Sweet 16 game that the team went into Saturday with a mantra of “no rebounds, no rings,” and Johnson finished with a team leading 12 boards, which she let Reese know about afterward.

“We still got out-rebounded, but as a team and our guards did a great job tonight rebounding,” Reese said.

“Yeah, I had more rebounds than Angel,” Johnson replied.

“Just one! Just one,” Reese exclaimed.

Johnson plays the game with her heart on her sleeve, celebrating buckets with teammates and fans and getting even more excited when her teammates make a big play. When Reese got an and-1 to go in the second half, Johnson leapt directly into the air off both feet. The moment displayed her athletic hops, but also the type of passion and energy she brings to the court.

Asked about Johnson after the game, head coach Kim Mulkey emphasized the joy she brings on the floor and her work ethic behind the scenes as a basketball player and rapper.

“When you hear her talk, she just has that joy about her,” Mulkey said. “She has no agendas. She gets very little sleep. That kid is probably up at 5:00 every morning writing stuff for her career and goes to class and comes to practice and works out.”

Heading out of a timeout with the game all but in hand, Johnson went over to a large Tigers’ fan section in the arena and held her hand to her ear. She wanted to hear more, and it’s far from the first time she’s pumped up a crowd.

She’s been rapping since she was seven years old, according to the New York Times, having announced her commitment to the Tigers alongside the release of a new song.

Her musical inspiration comes from her late father, Jason Johnson, a rapper known by the stage name Camoflauge, who was fatally shot in 2003, months before the birth of his daughter. His stage name is the source of Johnson’s first name.

She’s taken some criticism for doing both basketball and rap at the same time, being told to “get in the gym” rather than record or perform. She released a new song titled “AMF” (Ain’t My Fault) just before LSU’s first round game.

On the court right after the Tigers win over UCLA interview cameras and ESPN’s Holly Rowe surrounded Johnson. The interview was memorable, but her personality and spirit was undeniable.

“Everyday I’m in the gym putting in reps, every day,” Johnson said. “I know people are gonna discredit me cause I rap and I hoop, so I know I’ve gotta go extra hard. So that’s what I do.”

Rowe mentioned the new single and how today’s win was her fault. In response, Johnson smiled and raised her arms up to both sides.

“It’s our fault! It is our fault!”

Later, sitting in the postgame press conference with teammates and Mulkey, Johnson was asked if this was the best game of her career and had a quick answer.

“No. I’ve played better games. I feel like my whole life, I’ve been hooping a whole long time. This is just a bigger stage for me, and just give all the glory to God and working. That’s it.”

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