When the America East Conference Tournament starts on Sunday, March 10, Stony Brook University will be intent on making history. After an outstanding regular season, the Seawolves are in the top three of the conference and are aiming for their first trip to the NCAA Tournament since becoming a Division I program 20 years ago.

One of the standouts this season has been senior guard Shania Johnson, the team’s top scorer averaging 16.8 points per game. Johnson is an improbable leader as she’s only 5-foot-1, but her commitment to the game and belief in her ability to excel are strong.

“I’m just blessed beyond measure to have this gift,” said Johnson, who began playing basketball because her older brother played. They played on the same team, but in time he stopped and she kept on going. Even after she stopped growing, Johnson kept telling herself she could play D I ball. Her first two years of college were spent at Monroe College, where she was an NJCAA Honorable Mention All-American.

“Monroe was a great environment,” said Johnson, who acknowledged that junior college play isn’t as upscale as D I. “It made you realize don’t take anything for granted and be grateful for what you have. It taught me a lot and to go hard for anything that I want.”

Johnson is a business major, and she said it is challenging to play at the top level and meet Stony Brook’s high academic standards. “I studied and kept a level head,” she said. “There’s nothing I can’t go through.”

After college, she hopes to play professionally. Ultimately, she may combine her business degree with her knowledge of sports to open a shoe store or work for a company like Nike. For now, the conference tournament is on and Johnson and her teammates have their eyes on the prize—a trip to the Big Dance.

“[The senior leaders] get the team ready by saying positive things in the morning to get them ready for action,” said Johnson. “We know how to keep a positive attitude every practice. For the rest of the season, we’re trying to keep the same thing. We’ve got to try to be consistent in everything that we do.”

She concluded, “The NCAA Tournament is definitely what we’re shooting for and I hope that we get there.”