University of Wyoming’s Jaye Johnson looks for an open teammate during the Cowgirls’ 89-50 loss to Gonzaga on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020, at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.

CHEYENNE – Going the junior college route turned out to be beneficial for Jaye Johnson.

The Casper native attended Casper College following her high school career at Natrona County High. She averaged 7.3 points per contest throughout her two collegiate years, including 11.2 points per game during her sophomore campaign.

Her success in Casper earned her a scholarship for the University of Wyoming women’s basketball team.

“I’m glad that I went that route,” Johnson said. “It helped me as a player to develop more and get a feel for the game, and it helped me mature.”

Gaining that maturity has helped Johnson progress during her span in brown and gold.

The senior has started in place of McKinley Bradshaw (who was sidelined with an injury) in the Cowgirls’ previous three games. And she’s certainly made the most of her opportunities.

Johnson hit a game-winner as time expired when she followed and put back a missed shot Jan. 3 against Fresno State. The game prior to that, she hit a big 3-pointer in the waning minutes to help the Cowgirls pull away and pick up an overtime victory against Northern Colorado on the road.

It’s easy to see her confidence growing with each game.

“Even though she’s a (junior college) transfer, last year was her first year playing in a different system and playing at (the Division I) level,” UW coach Gerald Mattinson said. “She’s also added a dimension for us defensively … she’s quick enough to guard a guard, and she’s ornery enough to guard a (forward).”

Johnson stayed in Laramie over the summer and was able to get in the gym five days a week. Quinn Weidemann and Tommi Olson were the two other members of the team that stayed in Laramie over the summer to work on their craft.

The summer work has paid off for Johnson. She’s averaging nearly five more points per game this season and has improved in all facets. The 5-foot-10 guard has played only one less minute so far this season than she played all of last season.

Johnson’s increase in minutes and success on the court didn’t come on their own. She’s thankful for the help getting to where she’s at.

“It’s just the support from the coaching staff and my teammates,” she said. “It’s my last year (playing college basketball), and I want it to be a good year for me, so I want to play like it’s the last time I’m ever going to play.”

Being from Wyoming, she still has a ton of fans that provide another type of support.

Having that statewide support has also been important to her.

“It’s really cool,” she said about playing for the state’s only university. “I still have teachers or people I have gotten close with that talk to me and tell me how proud they are.

“I’m glad they get to see the progress. I’m from (Wyoming), and I’m playing at the only college, so it means a lot.”

Robert Munoz is a writer for WyoSports. He can be reached at rmunoz@wyosports.net. Follow him on Twitter @rmunoz307.

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