Sports News

How Tessa Johnson Became South Carolina’s Unofficial Media Member

ALBANY, N.Y. — Everyone has seen the videos. They have been every bit the staple of South Carolina women’s basketball’s online presence this March as sideline photos of Dawn Staley or videos of trophy ceremonies.

Open locker room sessions, practices, gamedays, freshman guard Tessa Johnson always has a microphone. She interviews her teammates about subjects from who can guard who, who they would want on a 3-on-3 team, pre-game rituals and anything else to lighten the mood.

How did she become the team’s unofficial media member? It was an idea born out of a video which never saw the light of day.

“What it was, I wanted you [Tessa] and Chloe [Kitts] to do that one when we were in North Carolina,” South Carolina’s Creative Media Producer Jhalen Wingate told GameocckScoop. “But then it got shot down, so I was like, ‘Let me give Tessa another chance and see what she can do.’”

Now it even has its own name, “Tea Time With Tessa” as she cheerfully calls it in the introductions. It is not the first of its genre; South Carolina’s social media team posted a few similar videos last season with a creative behind the camera asking questions.

It is, however, the first of its type with one player directing traffic. Creating even more genuine interaction between this tight-knit group, and doing so with the perfect candidate to peel back layers on her teammates.

Nobody is safe from a hard-hitting question, but everyone loves answering them.

“I feel like she has a good personality,” Wingate said. “Then she went out there and killed it and I was just like, ‘Let’s just keep it going, Tessa.’”

For months, the narrative about this team has been how different the preparation feels. About how a team of methodical, mature upperclassmen graduated last season and passed the baton to a youthful group unlike any Dawn Staley has ever coached.

Even at this stage, where the shoreline of a Final Four is just 40 minutes away and the pressure should be beating down on these 10 players, it is almost invisible. Staley’s long-held belief that the Elite Eight is the toughest game of any tournament run did not even make it into the lexicon this year.

If letting a 22-point lead drop all the way down to two in the final minute of an NCAA Tournament game is not going to phase this group, surely a few words about how tough the next challenge is will not.

“You throw all of that out with this team,” Staley said. “This team stays in the moment, so I think they really understand where they are and what they want to do. This is just another opportunity for them to get to the end goal.”

When the buzzer sounds, that act is strictly basketball. This team has taken the floor 35 times, and walked off the court victorious all 35. It made every play it had to late in order to side-step an early exit yesterday, specifically Raven Johnson and Kamilla Cardoso in the final three minutes.

And when the vibes are that good, fun is inevitable. Those wins and and heroics open the door for everything else in the “daycare” vibe Staley has mentioned this team has. Nobody embodies it more than Johnson, and nobody is doing a better job giving the world little insights into her teammates.

The only dilemma is how to find the questions.

“They [South Carolina’s social media team] give me options,” Johnson told GamecockScoop. “And then I decide from there. I really liked the 3-on-3 team question. My favorite one was Pao’s answer, when she said she was going to have [Lisa] Boyer on her team.”

For as long as this team is still playing, the videos will keep running. Johnson will hop around dropping a microscope down at every locker to give fans just a little bit more knowledge about their beloved team.

Would you ever know Bree Hall listens to meditation music on the bus or that Paopao wants to play a three-on-three game with two of her coaches without Johnson’s intrepid reporting?

You may as well add it to her bio at this point on the website.

Lights out 3-point shooter, strong defender, great interviewer.

“I love it,” Johnson said. “It’s funny, and it makes my day every time.”


Want 2 months free on your Rivals subscription? Refer a friend and they’ll get 50% off their first year while you get 2 months free, and the best part? You can do it as many times as you want. Just use your custom referral link on your subscriptions page (linked above).

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Back to top button