A Family University

Even though SUU was originally not on the radar for schools to play at for sisters Whitney and Kiana Johnson, it’s no surprise they eventually ended up in Cedar City, considering their parents met playing basketball here in the early 90’s.

“SUU: a family university, that’s what we call it,” Whitney said laughing with her sister. “They should market it that way.”

Peter and Stephanie Johnson played as a guard and forward for SUU respectively, and passed on the love of the game to all of their children.

“I can’t remember actually not playing basketball,” Kiana said.

“We’ve played our whole lives,” Whitney said.

Kiana started out her college career at Northern Colorado University, but after her Latter-day Saint (LDS) mission and a coaching change she found that her old team was no longer a great fit. After having exchanged emails with Coach Boettcher on her mission and considering the chance to play collegiately with her sister, Kiana said she took a shot in the dark and decided to transfer to SUU.

Like Kiana, Whitney found that her old team also wasn’t a great fit after her LDS mission, and also experienced a change of coaches. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Leadership from the University of New Mexico, and decided to continue her education and pursue a masters in business administration at SUU.

“I figured since I was going to have to start over with basketball with a new coach anyways, I might as well start over with a coach that wanted me,” Whitney said. “Mainly with my sister. Because I knew she was coming here.”

While their parents didn’t push them to attend their alma mater, Kiana and Whitney said their parents were very happy that both sisters ended up at SUU.

“They both loved their experience here,” Whitney said. “Then when it kind of just fell in to place that we would be here together they were overjoyed.”

On the court the sisters said they never have weird connections as siblings, but definitely have proud sister moments.

“Every time I pass her the ball, or we get an assist for each other I just feel super powerful,” Kiana said. “Sometimes you don’t really notice if it’s a sister connection or it was just a good pass but I always get more excited when I help her score or when she helps me score.”

Whitney said that she notices it more when she’s on the bench versus playing alongside Kiana.

“I get pumped when she scores,” Whitney said. “When she hits a three, or when she makes a good strong move to the basket it’s a proud sister moment.”

While no particular memories playing together at SUU stand out to them, they both said that playing a three on three NBA finals style tournament with their parents and younger brothers over their last Christmas break is a favorite memory.

“I think more so than us two playing in college it’s just family memories,” Whitney said. “Just the six of us having fun together.”

To keep up with the Johnson sisters and the rest of the SUU women’s basketball team follow them on Instagram, Twitter or like them on Facebook.

Story & Photography By
Haleigh Clemens