Ole Miss vs. Alabama
When: Thursday at 7 p.m.
Where: Coleman Coliseum
Records: Ole Miss 9-19, 3-11 SEC; Alabama 12-15, 4-10 SEC
Broadcast: SEC Network +
Radio: 100.1 F.M.

It took two years for her to become part of the Alabama women’s basketball team, but Cierra Johnson is making the most of her first year.

Her season started off slow, as she shot over 40 percent just one time in her first nine games, but she has become something else once SEC play started.

In Alabama’s 14 conference games, Johnson has started all but one. She’s averaging 15.4 points, which includes her scoring in double figures in 10 SEC games. Her 5.4 rebounds per game rank third on the team, while her 48 assists lead the team by 25. She also leads the team with 20 steals in the 14 games.

The only game she didn’t start was the game at Georgia in late January. Even though she wasn’t in the starting lineup, Johnson made the Bulldogs feel her presence by scoring 18 points and collecting eight rebounds, both of which led the team.

She has scored more than 20 points in her last two games, which is the first time a member of the Crimson Tide has done so since 2014. In Sunday’s loss, she also recorded her first double-double of her Alabama career, finishing with 23 points and 12 rebounds.

Her production has been important for the team, but for her, the biggest jump she has taken since October was in her maturity.

“I think that I’ve grown in many areas as far as my maturity,” Johnson said. “Taking responsibility for my actions, just trying to take that next step as a leader. Just growing out of my comfort zone.”

Johnson originally committed to Alabama out of high school but failed to meet the academic requirements to enroll. Coach Kristy Curry never wavered in the goal of Johnson wearing an Alabama jersey, including talking to each other on the phone during the two years constantly.

That loyalty that Curry showed was the driving force behind Johnson’s continued commitment, even when she built herself into the National Junior College Athletic Association Player of the Year.

“Kristy and her staff, they’ve been with me since day one,” Johnson said. “When I didn’t qualify, they stayed. They believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. Just the loyalty and how they actually care about Cierra the person, not just Cierra the basketball player.”

Alabama will play its final home game of the year against Ole Miss.

“Certainly, we want to make sure that (Shaquera Wade) and Taylor (Berry) end on a win in their last time ever in this building,” Curry said. “That should be motivation in itself.”