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Johnson-Chapman exceeding expectations for No. 25 ASU women’s basketball

Charnea Johnson-Chapman has become a difference-maker for Arizona State basketball this season. (Photo courtesy ASU athletics)

It took junior center Charnea Johnson-Chapman some time to find consistent minutes within the ASU women’s basketball rotation. But when her time came, she was ready for it, thanks to some help early in her career.

Coming to Tempe as a freshman, Johnson-Chapman was slated behind frontcourt juniors Sophie Brunner and Quinn Dornstauder on the depth chart. Her in-game opportunities were limited, but the veterans did all they could to help out the three-star recruit from Moreno Valley, California.

With their early guidance, she has been a difference-maker this season, averaging 7.6 points and a team-leading 7.1 rebounds per game in 20 starts for the No. 25 Sun Devils. She hit her stride on Jan. 7 in a game against then-24th ranked Stanford by tying a career-best with 16 points on 6-of-6 shooting and grabbing nine rebounds in the victory.

“From when I first got here in the summer, Sophie and Quinn both took me under their wing and we got in here and did extra and in practice they would help me out, tell me where to go, what I need to do,” Johnson-Chapman said. “They basically guided the way because they wanted me to get better.”

This was a stark contrast from Johnson-Chapman’s previous experiences. In high school, being bigger than a lot of other girls, she was given the opportunity to start early in her career in both basketball and volleyball, garnering annoyance from older girls on the team.

“Coming here and having them be like, ‘You can do it, just do it,’ ” Johnson-Chapman said. “It was a change and it was very helpful because it just boosted my confidence. I’m not going to get big-headed, but I’m also going to think that if I worked for it and I deserve it, I’m going to go after it.”

Being behind such a deep forward rotation kept Johnson-Chapman out of the limelight, but when coach Charli Turner Thorne had to turn to her young post player, she did so in important situations.

“When Sophie and Kelsey (Moos) both got hurt in that South Carolina game at Thanksgiving (in 2015-16), ‘Nea stepped up for us,” Turner Thorne said. “She had four or five weeks, when she got time in big games.

“I think it was deceptive when you looked at her minutes in terms of her experience.”

With that big game run in her arsenal, Johnson-Chapman entered her junior season ready to emerge from the depths of the bench and into an increased role in ASU’s on-court success. But even her coach was surprised at how quickly she caught on.

“I don’t think that anybody would have predicted her emergence,” Turner Thorne said. “She’s done an incredible job for us.”

In her first career start in the first game of the season, Johnson-Chapman set career-highs in points and rebounds in a win over UTSA. She’s consistently topped those numbers as the season has gone along, providing stability on the inside that some feared ASU would lose this season.

Two-thirds of the way through her first season in the starting lineup, she continues to impress the coaching staff as an example for those that earn their role and strive in it, something Johnson-Chapman continues to do.

“I could not be more proud of Charnea and her willingness to stick with things,” Turner Thorne said. “She’s just a great, old school example of somebody who comes into college in a top program and you don’t get to play right away. You don’t get what you want right away because there are a lot of top players in front of you. You just have to work and earn it, and that’s what she did.”