Allison Johnson plays basketball for her parents

Growing up in Spain, senior Allison Johnson knew that she wanted to be just like her father, Ed Johnson – a professional basketball player for over 12 seasons.

Now in her senior season at Georgia State, Allison is playing one of the best stretches of her career. It happened when it matters most – while the Panthers fight for one of the top sports in the Sun Belt Conference tournament.

With only two more guaranteed games in her collegiate career, she plans to leave it all on the floor.

Playing for her parents

In 2018, Johnson’s mom, Isabel Arguelles, was diagnosed with breast cancer. That, combined with the passing of her father Ed in 2016, put strain on her family. Allison missed some practices and team events at the beginning of this season to be with her mother who she is close with.

Every season, each Panther women’s basketball team picks a game to dedicate to breast awareness called “Play4Kay” named after legendary women’s basketball coach Kay Yow.

Georgia State participated in three of those games this year – matchups against Troy, South Alabama and Appalachian State.

For Johnson, every game she’s in is played in honor of breast cancer awareness  because of her mother.

After the Feb. 9 game against Troy where she recorded 19 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals, she took to Twitter and said, “That win means so much to me!! My Mom, herself is a breast cancer survivor, and I promised her we’d get this one for her!! Love my team.”

In the next two Play4Kay games she scored 13 and 20 points respectively. And with her mom in attendance against Coastal Carolina, she fell one rebound short of a double-double with 19 points and nine rebounds.

“I talk to her before every game and tell her that these games will be dedicated to her,” Johnson said. “But I don’t think I’ve been playing harder, I always play hard.”

Despite the recent uptick, Johnson had a season-high of 21 against Georgia Southern.It has really been a joy for her mother to watch.

“For me, this is my dream,” Arguelles said. “I’m so proud; I wish that my husband was here because he dreamed [this] all of his life [too], to see Allison doing such a great job. She’s a hard worker, which is the most important thing to me. It’s not about being a star or not; she’s doing a great job helping the team, and I love to see her playing that way.”

After playing collegiately at Tennessee State, Ed Johnson was selected in both the 1968 ABA and NBA drafts. During his time in the ABA, Johnson averaged around 15 points per game per 36 minutes according to Basketball-Reference.

Although children of professional athletes often feel pressure to live up to their parents’ standard or even exceed it,

Johnson doesn’t feel any pressure to live up to her father’s standards and never has.

“No, not really,” Allison said. “They’ve always told me to do what you want, make sure that you go hard and enjoy it. So that’s what I’ve done, I don’t feel like I have to be like him. Of course, I would love to be better than him, but he was a great player, so I just do what he taught me.”

Moving to Atlanta

Allison and her family moved to Norcross, Georgia when she was 12, and she would end up attending Norcross High School. She decided to play college ball at Kennesaw State, where she would play for two seasons. She was named to the Atlantic Sun Conference All-Freshman Team.

After her sophomore season, she decided to head south down Interstate 75 and transfer to Georgia State. Johnson had to sit out her junior year, but her success this year has made the wait worth it.

“It was really tough, to sit out, and I thought to myself a lot, ‘Was it worth it? But it was definitely worth it,” Johnson said. “ I had time to work on my game, and improve my three-point shot; I didn’t have one at Kennesaw. So I definitely think it was a good decision if you’re not happy.”

Despite the success of this season, she still believes that starting her career at Kennesaw State was the best move.

“I think that God had it planned this way for me, so I believe that’s how it was supposed to be,” Johnson said.

Assistant coach Tiffany Morton works with her every day and has seen a significant improvement in her basketball IQ.

“This year she’s done a great job in making the transition from going 100 mph, to now slowing down, facing up, reading the defense and then looking at what they’re giving her,” Morton said. “And it has helped her be more successful with being able to score and helping us that way.”

More importantly for the Panthers, her improved play gives them consistency on the offensive side of the ball. The coaching staff knows what it will get from her on a nightly basis.

Even if her scoring isn’t there, Morton can count on Johnson to bring heart and effort every minute that she’s on the floor.

“I think one thing that truly separates Allison from people that we play against as far as her opponents and defenders is her heart, her compassion for the game and just how much she wants to win and just the ability to sacrifice and give everything’s she’s got in those possessions,” Morton said.

With her collegiate career almost over, Johnson will continue to play for both her parents and her teammates in search of a Sun Belt championship.