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In April, Riquna Williams and Glory Johnson formally met each other for the first time during orientation at the WNBA draft. Immediately, they bonded.
"We just started talking it up and hit it off," Williams said. "I remember saying "What if we ended up on the same team? Who knows it would actually happen."
The Shock drafted Johnson from the University of Tennessee with the No. 4 overall pick and Williams from the University of Miami with the No. 17 pick. In the time since the draft, the duo has morphed into a tag-team defensive powerhouse on the court while forging a close friendship off it.
Johnson said, for any rookie, it’s tough transitioning from college basketball to the faster and tougher gameplay the WNBA showcases night after night. But she said having another rookie, Williams, to go through the transition with her, something that not many WNBA rookies have the luxury of because of small roster sizes, has been comforting.
"Having Glory on my side is comforting because we both feel that pressure," she said. "We both feel like we have to give to our veterans every night we put on a jersey."
The pressure to deliver seems to be paying dividends, especially with Johnson. She's the team's top defensive player, leading Tulsa in steals (2.4 spg), rebounds (6.2 rpg) and blocks (0.6 bpg). And during the team's last game against the Minnesota Lynx before the Olympic break, all the chatter was focused on the Lynx's Maya Moore scoring 19 points in one quarter. But Johnson, averaging 12.8 points per contest, was actually the top scorer that game with her own career high of 30 points.
"I feel I owe a lot of thanks for that to my teammates and my coaches," the 6-foot-3 forward said. "They work with me a lot before practice anytime when I ask them to. They come in early or come in late to help me focus on my game."
Williams, averaging 10.2 points per game, said the two rookies complement each other very well on the court already yet still have plenty of room to reach their max potential.
"Defense is where we work best,” Williams, a 5-foot-7 guard, said. “We're both defensive maniacs, we can turn it on and off. If you work hard on 'D,' it comes easy on 'O.'"
"We see them as cornerstones moving forward into the years to come," Kloppenburg said. "Riquna has the potential to be a great scorer. She's still learning a lot of things but she's going to be one of those people if you put the ball in her hands, she's going to be a reliable scorer. Glory is going to be one of those people that brings it every night. She's a workhouse player that you know what you're going to get out of her."
But the bonds don't end on the court. Aside from grabbing lunch together almost daily, Williams said the two play cards with each other a lot and come over to each other's places to cook.
Johnson, the more talkative of the two, said she thought Williams was a little quiet at first when she first met her, but quickly found out how fun she was to be around.
"She has multiple personalities, I'll tell you that," she said teasing Williams. "But they're all fun and she's a great person to be around."