“It’s Up to Us”: Sydney Johnson, Women’s Basketball Look for Patriot League Redemption
Terrier star guard aims at another shot at a Patriot League title
Sometimes, a championship game loss can set a program back, as players struggle to move past it. Sometimes, a new coaching staff can slow a team’s progress, as players learn to adapt. Both of those challenges hit the BU women’s basketball team in rapid succession, but the Terriers have hovered near the top of the Patriot League again this season, finishing with a 12-6 conference record and embarking on another promising trip to the playoffs.
Sydney Johnson (CAS’23) has been at the core of the team’s success, leading the Terriers in minutes, points, assists, and steals at the end of the regular season after earning All-Patriot League Second Team and Tournament Team accolades in 2021. BU Today spoke with the star guard about her performance, the team’s campaign so far, and the road ahead.
With Sydney Johnson
BU Today: After BU women’s basketball reached the Patriot League championship game a year ago for the first time in program history (a 64-54 loss to Lehigh), what has helped the team succeed this season?
Sydney Johnson: I think it’s just about staying the course. The season is so long, but I think we’re just sticking to what we know—playing together, staying the course, and staying diligent.
BU Today: Because of the pandemic, last year BU played just 15 games against only 6 unique opponents—all while wearing masks. What has the adjustment back to near-normal playing conditions been like this season?
Sydney Johnson: I think we have done great, considering we’ve gone through a lot of change. Last year, we had a super unconventional season. I think the nonconference games [this season] allowed us to adjust through all the changes and a lot of the newness that this season brought.
BU Today: Perhaps the biggest change was the introduction of head coach Melissa Graves, chosen for the job after Marisa Moseley (CAS’04) took over the Wisconsin women’s basketball team. What has your experience been like with Coach Graves so far?
Sydney Johnson: Coach G has allowed us a new sense of freedom that I don’t think anybody on our team has ever played with before. So many people were used to a super strong, really structured way of playing basketball, and I think Coach G allows us so much more freedom to do different things and try different things.
BU Today: On February 26, Graves’ daughter, Arya, was born, the same day BU beat Bucknell 69-51. How have the team’s assistant coaches stepped up in Graves’ absence?
Sydney Johnson: Again, it’s the adjusting piece. I think that the coaches have been really good about being prepared for that change, and just picking up where Coach G left off and making sure that this wouldn’t deter us in any way from our goals.
BU Today: After a 4-7 record in the season’s nonconference half, you ran off six consecutive wins to storm to the top of the Patriot League. What was behind that streak?
I really think it was a change in mindset. In nonconference, we definitely struggled quite a bit. We were still trying to find our jell. Once the conference season started, I think we were able to really find what worked for us, and I think we stuck with that.
BU Today: You’re currently fifth in points per game total points and field goals made in the Patriot League. How do you view your role on the team?
I try to do whatever the team needs me to do that night. A lot of times that’s scoring, but if I know that I’m not scoring particularly well or very efficiently, I know that maybe I need to do something else for the team. That may be getting steals or assisting rather than shooting—I’m just trying to do what the team needs from me that day.
BU Today: You’ve been complemented in the backcourt this season by Alex Giannaros (CAS’25), who’s third on the team in points and second in assists. What have you seen from her as a freshman?
The one word I can use to describe AG is ‘fearless.’ That girl is not scared of anybody or anything, and I think it shows when she plays. She amps me up. I think we play off of each other, and when I see her do something. I’m like, dang, I want to get a play like that for AG.
BU Today: From one of the team’s youngest players to one of its oldest: Riley Childs (COM’22) continues to be a team leader as a senior, even while missing 15 games this season. What can you say about her impact?
It’s the same thing: Riley is just energetic and fearless. You know when she comes in, she’s going to bring effort. You don’t ever have to question that when it comes to her.
BU Today: Another senior leader is Chiara Tibbitt (CAS’22), who has put up career-high statistics across the board this season while serving as president of the BU Student Athletes of Color. What are your thoughts on her accomplishments this year?
Chiara is one of the most unbelievably talented, amazing people, on and off the court. To see her progression from when I was a freshman to what she has done now, it’s mind-blowing. She’s always going to find a way to contribute, and she honestly really inspires me personally to just attack every day and every opportunity.
BU Today: The team was already strong in the paint with Childs and Tibbitt supporting 2021 Patriot League third team honoree Maren Durant (Sargent’23), and Caitlin Weimar (CAS’24) has only added to that strength when she transferred to BU this past offseason. What has Weimar brought to the team?
Caitlin is a big piece of what we do. When she is going for everything, every ball, every offensive rebound, we are a completely different team and we are really good. Between her and Maren, that frontcourt is pretty scary.
BU Today: What is the team’s mentality going into the postseason?
“It’s win or go home. If we want to win the Patriot League championship, we have to play every game like it’s our last. I think that’s really what we’re thinking about right now.”
BU Today: After coming so close last year, what would another chance at a championship mean to this group?
It would just mean the world if we were able to get to that stage once again. I think we have all the pieces and everything we need to do it, it would just be up to us to finally execute and do what we need to do. I think we can do it.
The third-seeded Terriers will take on sixth-seeded Army West Point in the Patriot League quarterfinal round at Case Gym on Monday, March 7 at 6 pm. The semifinals will be played on Thursday, March 10, and the championship game will take place Sunday, March 13. Fans can follow along with BU women’s basketball through @TerrierWBB and @BUGameDay on Twitter.