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A conversation with ULM L Club Hall of Fame inductee 'Jab' Johnson

Published November 3, 2016

MONROE, La. — Derunzia “Jab” Johnson will be inducted into the ULM L Club’s Hall of Fame on Nov. 5.

A native of Corey, La., in Caldwell Parish, Johnson played for the former Northeast Louisiana University women’s basketball program from 1987-90. She ranks fourth in program history with 1,542 points and second in rebounds behind Lisa Ingram with 1,006. She holds the career record with 12.3 rebounds per game, ranks fourth in career scoring at 18.8 points and is seventh in blocked shots (100). Johnson scored 30 or more points nine times and was a three-time All-Southland Conference selection. Johnson was named to the Southland’s 1980s All-Decade team in 2013.

Johnson played professionally in Spain, Canoe and Barcelona.

Heading into the ceremony, Johnson talked with L Club media relations director Paul Letlow about her career and what it means to be honored by her university.  

L Club: You were part of four state championships at Caldwell Parish High School. How did that prepare you for your college career?  

Johnson: It was not only winning state in high school, but I also played AAU ball for a team out of New Orleans called Dominoes. That also prepared me for college because I had a chance to play against different talent, girls from different areas, and other states. When you go against that type of talent, it prepares you. Really just being in camps prepared me too, because I always competed in a different grade level. It was also just playing near my house, guys and stuff prepared me for college.

L Club: ULM women’s basketball was considered a national power in the 1980s, but what ultimately brought you to Monroe?

Johnson: I did have other options but there were three girls who were high profile who came out of Caldwell Parish High School. The first one was Pam Kelly who went to LaTech. Then we had Lisa Thornton, my cousin, who went to LSU. I wanted to be different. I’d also had my son while I was in high school so I wanted to be closer to home. But with those two going to Tech and LSU, I wanted to make a name for myself so I picked Northeast.

L Club: Which coaches recruited you to ULM and what was their pitch?

Johnson: Coach Linda Harper and Coach Roger Stockton both were heavily recruiting me. I attended camps there every year and then there were a couple of recruiting trips. Mind you, my brother Reese Johnson was in school there and he played football. That only helped me to make my decision. 

L Club: You go by “Dee” now but how did you get the nickname “Jab”?

Johnson: Oh Lord! Jab came from Coach Jesse Burnette and Coach Murray at basketball camp during the summer. I was always in another grade level because of me being taller and more experienced. It was my elbows. You know, when I was posting up. So that’s how I ended up as Jab. I was probably still in junior high.  

L Club: Some of your career statistics rank right up there with ULM Hall of Famers like Lisa Ingram and Eun Jung Ok. How does it feel to be part of that same legacy?

Johnson: You think about E.J. and Lisa and they’re the top of the top when it comes to NLU.  Just to be recognized with that caliber of player. … I could never be compared to Lisa because she’s one of a kind, as well as E.J. I’m just blessed and grateful to be in that category with them.

L Club: What memories, accomplishments or statistics are your personal favorites?

Johnson: Probably the rebounds, getting 1,006 rebounds. That was very special to me. Also, just having E.J. come back to coach while I was playing. That was one of the highlights of my career. Coach Stockton was there coaching all the way through. I remember going to camps there back in junior high. To play under them was a highlight.

L Club: What has it meant to you to be inducted into the ULM Hall of Fame and have a chance to come back and reflect on your career?

Johnson: I’m grateful. I’m super excited to see some of the people coming back to ULM. Words can’t even describe it. I’m so hyped and I’ve been talking about it for the last couple of months. On my job, they ask if anybody has anything exciting come up. I’m like ‘Yeah, I’m getting into the hall of fame at my university!’ It’s not overwhelming, but it’s joyful.

L Club: What have you done since you finished your collegiate playing career?

Johnson: I went overseas and played. When I came back, I started working for Wal-Mart part time. I made it a career and have been a store manager with the company. I’m a co-manager now and have been in this role about two years. I’ve been with the company about 25 years.

(Press release courtesy of Paul Letlow)