Minnesota State High School League Hall of Fame inductee Faith Johnson Patterson was an outstanding girls basketball coach at Minneapolis North and DeLaSalle and quite the player at Marshall-University High School.
During a recent interview, she discussed how she went from not even wanting to play to becoming one of the state’s best but overlooked players.
“I would watch my Aunt Joan Johnson play,” Johnson Patterson said. “She was dribbling through her legs and passing the ball behind her back and looked like she was having fun.”
She encouraged her niece to give it a try and after teaching herself the game, Johnson Patterson was having fun herself.
I played one year of recreation ball and actually people thought I kind of good, she said. “So, I kept on playing thinking it was no big deal, “she explained. ”So, I just kept playing not knowing there was more to this.”
When she entered Marshall U as a seventh-grader, Johnson-Patterson quickly found out that there was more too this game of basketball.
I’m at Marshall U as eighth-grader and I’m in the gym playing with the guys,” she remembered. “And Karen Eiland, [former Marshall U standout] Kathie Eiland’s younger sister told me I was pretty good and should come out and play basketball.”
Johnson Patterson balked at the invitation thinking she wasn’t good enough.
“I initially told her no because I’m not that good,” she said in reflection. “She convinced me to try out for the team and I made varsity.”
From there, her career kind of took off.
“I met [established Marshall-U players] Kathie Eiland, Norma Westberry, Melanie Moore and we just started playing,” she said. “We ended up making the state tournament that year and after getting a significant amount of playing time during the regular season I got an opportunity to start in the state.”
Being able to start in the state tournament, Johnson Patterson says, allowed her to gain an appreciation for a game she had previously played just to play.
“I saw Kathie Eiland signing autographs and I thought it looked like fun, she said laughing. “That’s the kind of life I wanted.”
Johnson Patterson had found a love for the game.
“I started playing all year round,” she said. “Came back my freshmen year, averaged 16 points a game and made the all-state team. We made it back to the state tournament.”
That spring she became even more inspired after she accompanied some to watch watched some college basketball players that were in town for a national tournament at the University of Minnesota.
“There I saw a 5’0” point guard playing,” she said. “I was as good as she was or maybe even better, she continued. “That is what made me realize that I could play at the college level.”
Johnson Patterson knew she was good enough to play in college. She just didn’t how it would come about.
“I didn’t know how it was going to happen or how I could make it happen,” she said. “I just kept playing.”
Johnson Patterson and Marshall U never made it back to the state tournament after her freshman year, but Johnson got one more chance to show what she could do on the basketball court.
“We didn’t make it back to the tournament after the Johnson Patterson said. “But I played in the [Minnesota vs Indiana] All-Star game my senior year.”
Oh, yeah, she played. She played well.
Johnson Patterson—displaying quickness, leadership and one of the purest jump shots ever witnessed—scored nine of her 15 points in the second period to help the Minnesota all-stars defeat the Indiana all-stars 71-65.
She played in the state’s first two girls’ state basketball tournaments during her eighth- and ninth-grade seasons, and though she went on to have an outstanding prep career, she was not an all-state selection as a senior and was way under the radar when it came to recruiting.
“I wasn’t being recruited by anyone,” she said. “Wisconsin coaches happen to be at the all-star game and invited me to come to play with them and I signed my scholarship in April.”
She went on to enjoy an outstanding career as a point guard for the Badgers from 1980-1985.
As for why she didn’t make the all-state team, her quote after the game in May of 1980 [as told the Minneapolis Star Tribune) is telling.
“I was in the state tournament as an eight-and-ninth grader,” said Johnson Patterson said at the time, “but after that, we never made it again and I just kinda dropped out of sight I guess.”
Well, Johnson Patterson can no longer drop out of sight. She’s in the MSHSL Hall of Fame.
“I played in the first state tournament, I coached in one of the state tournaments and now I’m being inducted,” she said smiling. “I’ve come full circle.”