It’s been a familiar sight to fans and opponents of North Surry athletics over the past few seasons.
A team will be playing the Lady Greyhounds in volleyball, and in the middle of a rally, Dixie Fulk will set the ball high in the air, and two or more teammates will leap for it. Then the ball comes crashing down to the floor like it was shot out of a cannon.
Mikaela Johnson’s momentum-changing power won her back-to-back Western Piedmont Athletic Conference Player of the Year awards — and volleyball isn’t even her best sport.
The six-foot senior is already hard at work on getting ready for her final season in a North Surry uniform, as the Lady Hounds seek to win one more game than they did a year ago, falling in the 2A state championship game last March. But Johnson is already looking ahead to her future.
On Thursday evening, she signed a national letter of intent to play college basketball for High Point University. When she takes to the court for the first time as a collegian, in about one year, she will become the second member of her family competing in Division I college basketball. Her older sister Malaya is a junior center for Elon University.
The younger Johnson sister had plenty of college opportunities of her own, and could have continued her career in either volleyball or basketball. But what and where to play turned out to be an easy decision.
“I have always loved basketball,” she said. “It’s been my main thing forever. I have been playing since I was eight.”
With that out of the way, it was simply a matter of where.
“There were a lot of schools that I had options with, but High Point was the one that really stood out the most,” Johnson said. “It was just the best fit for me. The campus and the coaches were amazing. I just knew I was going there.”
Although the Panthers project to have a handful of senior post players when Johnson arrives on campus, she said she expected to earn playing time right away.
“She (head coach DeUnna Hendrix) told me I have a very good opportunity to play, because I would be one of the better people at my position,” said Johnson. “I’m pretty much guaranteed playing time. It’s just a matter of how much I work.”
However, Johnson said that she has unfinished business before she walks across the stage next year, receives her diploma and heads off to her new adventure. The Lady Hounds appreciate what they achieved last winter, and the state runner-up banner that already hangs in the Ron King Gym. But it’s not everything they wanted.
“Going to the championship last year, and the crowd that was there cheering for us was the best thing,” said Johnson of the highlight of her North Surry career to date.
The team has a few departed seniors to replace, but will be one of the favorites in the 2A West again this season, with an imposing array of frontcourt players and some talented newcomers.
“Absolutely,” Johnson said when asked if she thinks the Lady Hounds can rectify last year’s loss in the finals. “I think if we practice and play as hard as we can, it’s our championship.”
Last year, Johnson was second on the team in scoring at 12.2 points per game, and led North Surry in rebounding at 7.5. Perhaps her finest performance of the season came last Dec. 29 in the championship game of the Mount Airy Christmas Tournament, where Johnson had 17 points, 17 rebounds and three blocks in a 53-50 win over the eventual 1A state champions. She went for 19 points and 10 rebounds in the West Regional final against East Burke.
In basketball, she was Co-Player of the Year in the WPAC as a sophomore, then won it outright last season. She was third-team All-District (where she was competing against players from bigger schools), and made the second team last season.
At High Point, she will study exercise science with a long-term goal of becoming a physical therapist, but is also looking forward to playing college basketball.
“It’s always been a dream of mine,” she said.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.