Former Duck Amanda Johnson Drafted by Phoenix Mercury

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Oregon's Amanda Johnson (right) drives past defenders for an easy bucket.

Sean Larson, EDN Sports

Oregon's Amanda Johnson (right) drives past defenders for an easy bucket.

This past season, the Oregon women’s basketball team urged fans to vote for senior forward Amanda Johnson for the Lowe’s Senior Class Award, an annual award presented to the outstanding senior NCAA Division I student-athlete of the year. While she didn’t win, Johnson got something much sweeter on Monday.

Johnson was drafted in the third round of the 2012 WNBA Draft by the Phoenix Mercury. She was the 33rd overall pick. This marks the first time Oregon has had a player drafted since Catherine Kraayeveld was selected by the San Antonio Silver Stars in the third round of the 2005 WNBA Draft.

Johnson was one of four Pac-12 players drafted this season. USC’s Jacki Gemelos and Briana Gilbreath were also selected in the third round. Stanford’s Nnemkadi Ogwumike was selected as the No. 1 overall pick this season by the Los Angeles Sparks.

Just how surprised was Johnson that she got selected? She didn’t even watch the draft. Due to a thumb injury that forced Johnson to miss 11 games during her senior season, Johnson expected to be signed as a free agent.  Instead of watching the draft, she chose to work on her schoolwork and clinical work. Then when she picked up her phone on Monday and saw there was a missed call from the front office of the Phoenix Mercury, she became excited. When she listened to the voicemail, she learned the Mercury planed to take her with the 33rd pick.

Johnson joins a Phoenix squad that went 19-15 last season, losing in the Western Conference Titles. Current Oregon coach Paul Westhead led the Mercury to a WNBA title in 2007, and his up-tempo offense, simply known as, “The System,” is still used by the team.

It’s not often that one of your draft picks already knows your offense, so that will be an advantage for Johnson in her rookie season.

The Mercury got exactly what they needed, which was a versatile post player who could also put up big scoring numbers. This past season, Johnson averaged 18.0 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, earning her a spot on the Pac-12 All-Conference team.

Johnson is the only player in Oregon women’s basketball history to rank top five all-time in points, rebounds, steals, and three-pointers. Over the course of her career, she led the team in scoring 41 times, and 71 times she led the team in rebounds.

Oregon head coach Paul Westhead celebrates his title with the Phoenix Mercury. Westhead is the only coach to win an NBA and WNBA title (Photo credit: Gary Malerba/AP)

The all-conference forward from Santa Rosa, California excelled not only on the court, but in the classroom as well.  Johnson became just the second player in program history to earn Pac-12 All-Academic first team honors on three different occasions, joining Stefanie Kasperski, who accomplished the feat from 1988-1990.

Johnson graduated in the top two percent of her class with a double major in psychology and sociology, and was most recently pursuing her master’s in couples and family therapy.

Johnson becomes the sixth player in program history to be drafted by the WNBA. In addition to Johnson and Kraayeveld, Oregon also saw Shaquala Williams (2003), Edniesha Curry (2002), Jenny Mowe (2001) and Angelina Wolvert (2001) make it to the professional level.

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Sean is a senior at the University of Oregon majoring in journalism. He has lived in every region of the country, most recently in San Francisco before coming to Eugene for school. He can be reached via email ([email protected]) and you can follow him on Twitter. (@SeanALarson)

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