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Trio of former prep stars faring well at college level
Former RHHS Azaria Johnson is playing well Penn State-Hazleton.
Former RHHS star Azaria Johnson is playing well Penn State-Hazleton. Photo provided.

Three former Bryan County girls basketball players had another solid season and the fact they are having success at the college level does not come as a surprise to their high school coaches. 

Olonna Rawls, who set a school record with 2,267 points at Bryan County High School, was a key player for Columbus State as was former Richmond Hill standout Azaria Johnson at Penn State-Hazleton where she was an all-conference performer for the second straight year. 

Jay Black, who pulled down a school record 1,059 rebounds for the Redskins, was a force on the boards for Albany State and in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. 

Of the three success was most expected of Rawls after the career she had for the Redskins. As a four-year starter she played on teams that were 94-21 including a school record 26 wins her junior year. In addition to her scoring, she had 878 rebounds, 511 assists and 418 steals.

This season Rawls was the Panthers’ third-leading scorer at 13.3 points which was good for eighth in the Peach Belt Conference. She was also sixth in the conference in rebounding at 6.8 per game and her 81 assists in 27 games was eighth among PBC players.

“What makes Olonna different is that she can play several different positions on the floor on offense,” Coach Mario Mincey said. “She also plays bigger than her size (5-foot-6) and she has great basketball IQ. Her willingness to do whatever her team needs is also a great quality.”

According to Mincey she is one of seven players who have played for him to have scored 1,000 or more points. Julianne Brown had 1,676, Satashala Beasley 1,078, Shelby Gunn 1,023, Tiffany Howard 1,019, Diamond McGirt 1,015 and Kenzie Stucker 1,003.

A lot of schools are now learning, to their regret, they missed the boat in bypassing Johnson who is blossoming with PSU-Hazleton, a Division II program which plays in the 14-member Penn State University Athletic Conference.

Johnson did not sign with Hazleton until mid-July and some schools no doubt had questions about her health. As a fourth-grader she suffered a severe head injury in the spring which led to memory issues. As a junior she suffered a concussion which caused her to miss several games.

She had a solid senior season for Coach Sarah Jones and has established herself as a player to be reckoned with at PSH.

“She’s our most athletic player,” Coach Jeff Onushco said, “and our best defender.”

After a freshman year in which she led the Nittany Lions in scoring at 14.4 points per game this season Johnson averaged 11.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.

“Azaria is just such a hard worker,” Jones said.

“She continuously got better due to her hard work and ability to be coachable. Even for us we asked her to play so many different positions depending on the opponent and the game.

“I am absolutely not shocked by her success at the next level. I know we are talking about her success on the court but I know she will be equally as successful in whatever career choice she pursues.”

Black earned her keep in high school and college as a rebounder and she was a consistent player for the rebuilding Rams as she again led the team in rebounding at 8.7 per game which was also good for fifth in the SIAC.

The 5-10 senior was not expected to score but she still managed to average 7.9 points per game while shooting 50 percent from the field, third best in the conference. She averaged 8.1 rebounds per game for her career at ASU.

“Jay has been a great rebounder her entire career,” Mincey said. “Her ability to track the ball off the glass is unreal.”

Current Redskins assistant coach Yasmine Crawford had 1,022 rebounds while playing for Mincey. Crawford, who had 877 points, is helping tutor sophomore Ashanti Brown who is on track to eclipse the 1,000-mark in both rebounding and points.

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