When Vic Schaefer started assembling what he labels his “A” team, the first crucial piece of that squad was Johnnie Harris, who enters her third season in Starkville as the program’s associate head coach.
Harris’ reputation as one of the nation’s top recruiters showed as the staff’s first two recruiting classes have rated among the best in program history.
Harris, who works with the Bulldogs’ post players, helped develop Martha Alwal into one of the nation’s top centers. Under her guidance, Alwal earned First Team All-SEC honors and SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year accolades a year after she was named to the all-league second team and winner of the Gillom Trophy as Mississippi’s top women’s college basketball player. In two seasons working with Harris, Alwal has become MSU’s all-time blocks leader while topping the league in the category the last two seasons.
Harris also serves as State’s special teams coach, coordinating the in-bounds, sideline and free-throw plays, something she specialized in working alongside Schaefer for five seasons on the Texas A&M bench.
She was also instrumental in the Bulldogs going perfect on the recruiting trail for their first two classes. That first one, rated No. 35 in the nation, helped the Bulldogs to a 22-14 record and the WNIT quarterfinals in 2013-14. Harris and the Bulldog coaching staff followed that class with a Top 20 class that rated among the best in program history.
While in College Station, she helped guide Texas A&M to four Sweet 16 appearances in her five seasons, and the program’s first national championship in 2010-11.
During her tenure with the Aggies, Harris helped sign and mentor junior college All-Americans Danielle Adams and Tanisha Smith. Adams earned MVP of the 2011 Final Four before going on to be drafted 20th by the San Antonio Silver Stars of the WNBA. Adams was tabbed to the league’s all-star game in her inaugural season.
With Harris’ guidance, Smith earned Big 12 Newcomer of the Year and conference all-tournament honors in 2009. The Seattle Storm selected Smith with the 22nd pick in the 2010 WNBA Draft.
Not only was it her on-court coaching ability that put her atop Schaefer’s list of coaches, but it was her reputation as one of the nation’s premier recruiters.
Harris’ recruiting ability was crucial in building the Aggies into an annual championship contender, as she helped Texas A&M in signing classes that have annually rated in the top 20 nationally.
She helped the Aggies land the nation’s No. 2 class in her final season in College Station. That class included a pair of McDonald’s All-Americans in Jordan Jones and Courtney Williams. TAMU’s 2010 class, which included McDonald’s All-American and the nation’s top post player, Karla Gilbert, rated third nationally. The two years prior she helped notch the nation’s fifth- and sixth-rated classes.
Harris played a key role in signing the major players in Texas A&M’s national championship team that claimed a school-best 33 victories.
Prior to her stop in College Station, Harris spent three seasons at Arkansas, helping land some of the Lady Razorbacks’ top recruiting classes. She signed Laura Ervin, a junior college All-American who went on to garner Second Team All-SEC accolades, as well as Freshman All-SEC selection Donica Cosby.
In 2007, she inked Gatorade players of the year Whitney Zachariason (Arkansas) and Morgan Boyd (Kansas) as Arkansas finished with one of the nation’s top-40 classes. Harris also recruited one of the top five point guards in the nation in Shanita Arnold.
Harris has had the opportunity to learn from some of the game’s top coaches, including Hall of Famer Kay Yow at N.C. State. She joined the program in the 2003-04 season and immediately helped the squad to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in two years.
Harris and her fellow coaches helped the Wolfpack sign JUCO player of the year Tiffany Stansbury, who went on to play with the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks and Minnesota Lynx.
Her first recruiting class in Raleigh was rated as one of the best in the nation. She also garnered a commitment from Gillian Goring, the nation’s No. 1 post player who went on to play for the Washington Mystics.
Prior to jumping to the Division I level, Harris made her mark on the junior college level as an assistant coach at Arkansas-Fort Smith, where she helped bring in key players who led the school to the NJCAA Final Four in 2004. In two seasons coaching under the legendary Louis Whorton, she inked the nation’s No. 1 class and helped the Lady Lions to a 34-8 record. UAFS’s 2002-03 team went 26-2 and won a share of the Bi-State Conference championship.
The Arkansas-Fort Smith position kept the Pine Bluff native in her home state after she started her coaching career as a graduate assistant at Arkansas-Little Rock. Her hard work at UALR earned her a promotion to full-time assistant in 2000.
Harris, a 2014 inductee in the Watson’s Chapel High School Hall of Fame, also coached AAU hoops with the Arkansas Kamikaze.
She began her playing career at Arkansas-Pine Bluff before transferring to Arkansas Baptist for her final two seasons. She is the mother of two children, Marcus and Kiera, and the legal guardian of Lily.
She also has a granddaughter, Samarah.