Raven Johnson is having a fantastic year. And now she will go where no woman has gone before as she prepares to play with and against men at the 2021 Allen Iverson Roundball Classic, to be held in Memphis, TN on May 7 and 8.
Jai Manselle, co-founder of the Iverson Classic, succinctly described this historic step to integrate basketball, via Instagram: “… Raven is a special talent. … Integrating a game like this was bound to happen one day. And today, the right talent, the right game and the right time all aligned.”
Well said indeed, Jai and … Take a big bow, Raven!
A Roomful of Trophies and Hardware
Fresh from being selected as the J.R. Naismith High School Player of the Year and a McDonald’s All-American, Johnson was ranked by ESPN Hoopgurlz as the No. 2 prospect nationwide in the Class of 2021 as she committed to play for Coach Dawn Staley on the vaunted South Carolina Lady Gamecocks basketball team.
Adding to her collection of kudos, Raven was named the 2020-21 MaxPreps Georgia High School Girls Basketball Player of the Year and was selected as Miss Georgia Basketball 2021 by the Atlanta Tipoff Club. She has also been named as the GACA AAAAAAA South Player-of-the-Year in 2020 and the AJC AAAAAAA South Player-of-the-Year in 2019 and ’20.
Raven’s accolades didn’t come out of the blue – they are the cumulation of four years of high school basketball dominance by the 5’8” point guard. Johnson led the Westlake Lions of Atlanta to four consecutive state championships – a run during which they reached a historic streak of winning 100 straight games played in Georgia with a 58-39 win over Hughes during the MLK Jr. Holiday Weekend this year.
Even in a year where her playing time dropped due to the dominant team she led, Johnson averaged 15.1 points, 5.8 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 3.7 steals a game. Her assist to turnover ratio was a brilliant 3.2:1, a stat that current NBA leaders in the category would kill for.
First Female Athlete to be Invited to a Major Men’s All-American Roster
In becoming the first ever female basketball player to be invited to play in a traditionally men’s competition, Raven Johnson could not have aligned with a better venue.
The Iverson Classic, named after the NBA Hall-of-Famer and event co-founder Allen Iverson, has become the country’s #1 tournament featuring high school All-Americans. Importantly, it will be the only such premier competition held in 2021 – both The McDonald’s All-American Game and The Jordan Brand Classic having been canceled this year due to COVID restrictions.
Coach Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes of Team Loyalty announced Raven’s name during the March 30 telecast of their SHOWTIME® Basketball series What’s Burnin’. She will be joining a virtuoso lineup of uber talented youngsters. Another electrifying point guard, JD Davison, will be teaming up with Raven to try and defeat the all-stars on Rasheed Wallace and Bonzi Well’s Team Honor, which features the sensational talent of 7’1” center Chet Holmgreen.
Why the Iverson Classic is a BIG Stage
The presence of NBA stars and talent scouts make this a must watch event. Last December, former Bartlett high school point guard Amarr Knox sizzled with his 37-point outing against his five-star adversary J.D. Davison in an Iverson Classic Showcase event (aptly titled Battle In The Bluff), so much so that he got a full scholarship offer from the University of Memphis.
Why? Because the iconic coach of Memphis, Penny Hardaway, had heard about Knox’s performance from the glittering array of former NBA stars that regularly attend Iverson Classic events – be it Stephen Jackson, Matt Barnes, Rasheed Wallace or Tracy McGrady.
As Allen Iverson himself said: “This event has always been about creating opportunities … it’s an honor for me to be able to open doors and help break down barriers for this next generation.” Now, Raven Johnson will look forward to seizing the opportunity with both hands.
The World’s a Stage … and Waiting
Raven Johnson will set the stage and open doors, according to Jai Manselle, a man who knows
a thing or two about creating opportunities for youngsters. After all, Manselle along with Iverson and Bobby “Bo” Bates Jr., have catapulted the Iverson Classic to its current status.
As Manselle explained: “We didn’t set out to select a woman. She made herself undeniable. There was no one better to fill that roster spot.”
High praise, indeed! Now it’s over to Raven Johnson to cement her status as a premier ballplayer, man or woman.