2020 stars from championship team go pro

By Dylan Manfre

The 2019-2020 women’s basketball season was the most successful team in the program’s history. As Head Coach Lynn Milligan would say — “No doubt about it.”

The Broncs had six seniors on their team, three of whom are continuing their basketball careers both professionally and overseas.

Stella Johnson

Johnson’s post-college career led her to the WNBA, as she became the women’s basketball program’s first professional player when the Phoenix Mercury drafted her in the third round back in April. However, she only spent 40 days with the team before getting cut by Phoenix and signed again by the Chicago Sky.

She appeared in four games with the Sky before they cut her, but her next team called at the right time.

“I got a call from my agent, and was like ‘You’re not going home. Washington’s going to pick you up,’” Johnson said.

The Washington Mystics signed Johnson a day after she was cut by Chicago.

Johnson ultimately found her footing in the “Wubble” — the WNBA’s bubble at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, where it orchestrated its season with zero positive COVID-19 tests — with the Mystics and will remain with them next season.

Johnson showed remnants of her sensational scoing when she dropped 25 points against the Atlanta Dream. The 98-91 win ended a seven-game skid for the Mystics.

Johnson was one of the main orchestrators of the 2020 championship team as she led the nation in scoring at 24.8 points per game.

Lea Favre

Since graduating from Rider Fave signed a professional contract to play overseas in Belgium, four hours away from where she lives in Switzerland.

However, the coronavirus pandemic shut down RNC Pepinster’s season, a team in Belgium’s first division.

Favre sustained a torn Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), MCL and meniscus while playing 3-on-3.

Surprisingly, Favre said her injury did not feel like an ACL tear.

“I was in pain but nothing crazy pain,” Favre said. “I was still kind of able to walk and it didn’t feel like an ACL [tear]. Everyone is always saying ‘You can feel a pop,’ I didn’t feel that. So when I got the MRI, I was just so surprised.”

After her injury, she said many of her former teammates reached out to offer support.

“They were all super supportive … the day of the surgery,” Favre said. “They were sending me text messages telling me to stay strong.”

Favre is the only member of the 2020 senior class to not receive the championship ring after Rider was awarded the conference title for being the top seed in the tournament.

She said when conditions allow, Favre plans to return to the U.S. to pick up what is rightfully hers.

“I have a storage unit near Rider and coach [Milligan] asked me ‘Do you want me to keep the ring,’ and I was like ‘Yeah, keep the ring until I come back,’” Favre said.

Amari Johnson

The 2020 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year took her talents to Ireland after graduating from Rider. Amari Johnson is pursuing her Master’s in International Business at Griffith College in Dublin while playing basketball for the school.

Unfortunately, she has had to deal with the harsh reality of games being canceled.

“My plans for this season in Ireland are first to play games, the second goal of mine is to win games,” she said in an email. “This country takes the impact of COVID-19 extremely seriously. Thus far we have postponed our first game to the beginning of December. I’m just praying that our season is not continuously postponed.”

Amari Johnson has been in contact with Milligan and the other members of the 2020 senior class.

Milligan even said they all got together in the practice facility and FaceTimed Stella Johnson and Favre (who were in Florida and Switzerland, respectively) and gave out the championship rings.

“It was a good time,” Milligan said. “Not exactly the way we anticipated having a ceremony, but we tried to make it nice as best we could. And they were through the roof. And just I’m proud. So it was really fun.”

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