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MJ to honor Johnasson Nov. 22

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MJ to honor Johnasson Nov. 22

Shelia Johansson in 1977

Long before Courtney McFarlin, Jennifer Johnson and Alysha Clark became renowned statewide for basketball at Mt. Juliet High, there was "Smokey Jo".

Shelia Johansson, the unstoppable scoring machine of Mt. Juliet's first state championship team in 1977, will have her likeness raised to the rafters alongside Miss Basketball finalists McFarlin, and Johnson and Miss Basketball winner Clark in ceremonies planned this fall.

Ironically, the event will be held on Nov. 22 as Mt. Juliet hosts Hillsboro High.  Jo wore uniform No. 22 to glory for the Bearettes -- as they were known then.

Scoring over 2,300 points in her hoop career at Mt. Juliet, Johnasson would have been a no-brainer for Miss Basketball recognition -- if the TSSAA had implemented the honor back when she played.

Now Shelia Johansson Cohen and a middle school teacher / coach / administrator at Cranbrook School in Michigan, she helped lead Mt. Juliet to a record of 33-1 and the Class AAA state title in her junior year.

Her career point total was eventually passed by four-year starter and Middle Tennessee State signee Caya Williams, but her legacy still lives on at Mt. Juliet.

"There's no question she deserves to have her photo up there with Courtney, JJ and Alysha," said Lady Bear head coach Chris Fryer. "We're hoping to have a great turnout that night as our fans welcome back one of the true legends of Mt. Juliet basketball."

She averaged 26 points per game in her prep career and averaged nine rebounds per game. Her career high was a 39-point effort against Madison High in the regional finals her sophomore year.

Johnasson was a two-time All-America selection at Mt. Juliet High, a two-time MVP of the Nashville Interscholastic League, a two-time All-State pick and was selected to represent Team USA in the Pan American Games.

"She is so deserving of this honor," said former Mt. Juliet coach Larry Joe Inman -- now the women's coach at Tennessee State University.

"All the players and fans that knew her then understand the effort she put in and the long, hard hours that helped her accomplish the highest honors available in the game of basketball."

The MVP of the 1977 Class AAA tournament, she was the first female to be awarded an athletic scholarship at Vanderbilt, where she played two seasons before nagging knee injuries forced her to give up the game.

"Words cannot express what this means to me -- Mt. Juliet is home," Johansson-Cohen said.

"The years I spent representing the community and the school were some of the best years of my life. The bonds that were formed with my teammates have never been broken.

"Larry Joe Inman was the key to our success and putting Mt. Juliet on the basketball map," she said. "He was the one who paved the way to my successes in basketball and in life."

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