COLUMBIA — When a high school student transfers to another school, there is bound to be a difficult adjustment period.
For Ellie Johnson, sophomore forward for the Hickman girls basketball team, that adjustment period was most evident the night of the Norm Stewart Classic on Nov. 30. That night, she mistakenly thought the junior varsity team played before the varsity team and it cost her a spot in the starting lineup.
To the Hickman forward's credit, she usually would have been correct, but that night she was not. Johnson arrived just a few minutes before tip-off.
“Yeah, that was bad,” she recalled before bursting out laughing. “Other than that, it has been a smooth transition,” she said.
Before the start of the school year, Johnson transferred from Fayette High School in Fayette, Mo. to Hickman. The first thing that stood out to Johnson about her new school was its size. With 245 students, Fayette is a "2A" high school, while Hickman, with a 2011-2012 enrollment of 1,882 students is "5A".
“The biggest surprise came on the first day,” Johnson said. “I just looked around, and I was shocked by how many people there were.”
Johnson has also noticed a significant difference on the court.
“The competition is on another level here,” Johnson said. "Everything is so much faster, and the other players are all very talented.”
Johnson was one of the premier players at her former high school, but is now more of a role-player in a deep Kewpies line-up. And despite the decrease in minutes, Johnson is comfortable in her new role.
“At Fayette I felt I had more of a featured role,” Johnson said. “But there are so many good players here that I don’t feel as much pressure.”
The 6-foot-1 forward adds some much needed height to a Hickman squad that has no other player over 6-feet.
“We are a bit undersized this year,” Hickman head coach Tonya Mirts said. “We are going to need (Ellie) in order to be successful.”
Mirts has stressed rebounding throughout the year. As the tallest member on the team, that is something Johnson has taken to heart.
“The two biggest things have been rebounding and communication,” Johnson said. “I just need to work on boxing out every time.”
While Johnson is a newcomer, she is quick to credit her teammates for their welcoming attitudes. She said that they treat her the same as every other player.
“All of my teammates were very welcoming when I first joined the team,” Johnson said. “Now I don’t really feel like I am new.”
The Kewpies (4-0) will take on Blue Springs High School in the finals of the McDonalds Tournament at Blue Springs South High School at 5:15 p.m. Saturday. Johnson hopes to make an impact and continue her immersion into her new surroundings.
“This team wants to win a lot of games this year,” Johnson said. "And I am hoping to help out with that.”