She played just under nine minutes that first outing, scoring her first bucket as a Tiger and pulling down three rebounds. Little did she know that her workload was about to get much heavier, and quickly.
Senior Kiyae’ White, Auburn’s starting post player the whole season to that point, aggravated an injury heading into Auburn’s game at Florida four days later and was unable to play. So in her second game as an Auburn Tiger – less than a week after she was cleared to practice – Precious Johnson found herself in the starting lineup.
“I was honestly super excited,” she said. “I was like, ‘Wow, Coach is really going to start me.’ It made me even more determined to work hard because (I knew) people were depending on me. We had injuries going on, so I was like, ‘You’re really depending on me, so I’ve really got to work hard to be great here.”
She played 29 minutes that night with seven points and five rebounds as Auburn came agonizingly close to picking up their first SEC win, falling 68-63 in Gainesville after being unable to hold onto a late lead.
All told, she would play in 12 of the season’s final 15 games, starting eight, averaging 5.2 points and 4.0 rebounds. She will be the Tigers’ third-leading rebounder to return for 2022-23. And it was evident that her fitness level and her confidence continued to improve throughout the season – culminating in an 18-point, 10-rebound performance at Kentucky for her first career double-double.
“I think that was a game I’ll look back to and think, ‘OK, this is where you need to start from now,’” Johnson said. “It was also emotional for me, though, because it’s my first college double-double, and a couple of people that I wanted to be here aren’t here, so I was going extra hard for them. So it also made me happy at the same time.”