Johnna Fisher, who was a Northeastern Conference All-Star for the Winthrop Vikings and went on to play for Division 1 Central Connecticut State University, is hanging up her sneakers.
The 6-foot-3-inch senior at CCSU said she is retiring from the game she has played competitively since middle school. She is sitting out her fourth and final collegiate season due to knee problems, having undergone five surgeries on her right knee in the past three years.
Fisher, who will graduate in May with a degree in Sociology and a minor in Physical Education, played three full seasons for the CCSU Blue Devils. Her big-time basketball experience included games at the University of Texas, the University of Central Florida, the University of Miami, and Boston College.
“Texas’s arena was huge,” said Fisher. “All their facilities were amazing, especially their football stadium. After our game at UCF in Orlando, the team went to Disney World.” During her college career, Fisher played against a few local players, including former Winthrop High and Arlington Catholic standout Meredith Soper, who was a starting player for Division 1 Bryant University.
Fisher said playing Division 1 college basketball challenged her athletically and academically because of the many hours of practice and conditioning that is expected at that level.
“It was different that I expected,” said Fisher. “It was tougher than I thought. With the time commitment, you really don’t have time to do much. We practiced Mondays and Wednesdays at 6 a.m. and afternoon practices starting at 1:45 the other days. On a typical day for a home game, we have a pre-game meal at 3 p.m. and then we head to the gym at 4 p.m. and we have to be on the court at 6 p.m.”
At Winthrop High, Fisher played basketball for three different head coaches: Peter Grimes, Dave Nagle, and Ignacio Oyola.
Grimes was a terrific mentor early in her career, naming her an assistant manager in the program while she was in elementary and middle school and inviting her to compete on occasion with the varsity.
“My father [John Fisher] introduced me to Mr. Grimes when I was young and he really took me under his wing,” said Fisher. “He really helped my basketball career a lot.”
The best game of her Winthrop career was a dominating performance in her senior year against Gloucester when she scored 30 points, grabbed 20 rebounds, and blocked 10 shots.
“We won by one point,” said Fisher with a smile.
Fisher said she learned at a young age that she was going to be tall. “The doctor told me right away – 6-3 or 6-4 and I was like, OK. I was in the 99th percentile for height and she told me I was going to be tall like my dad.”
John Fisher, Johnna’s father, stands 6 feet, 6 inches, and developed in to an excellent college player following a growth spurt after high school. John was known for his soft shooting touch, passing skills, and rebounding and was regarded as a consummate team player. Her mother, Michelle Favaloro, is 5-feet-8.
John would frequently take his daughter to hone her skills at local basketball courts.
“My father would take me to shoot around all the time and teach me stuff and I really wouldn’t believe him at that point,” said Johnna. “Then when I got older, I realized all the things that my father taught me about basketball were right and he really was good at basketball.”
She made her debut in CYO basketball and continued in the sport at Winthrop Middle School. In high school in addition to basketball, she also played goalkeeper for the soccer team for three seasons under coach Tracey Martucci. “I played goalie behind Rina [Mallios] for two years,” said Fisher.
As a Winthrop varsity player, Fisher had the opportunity to play with some of the school’s all-time best athletes, including Courtney Finn (All-American in basketball at Bentley), her sister, Kristen Finn (Bates College), Katerina Mallios (Babson College), and Nicole Giaquinto (All-American in track at UMass/Lowell).
Asked if she had ever dunked the basketball during a game or practice, she replied, “I can touch the rim but I’ve never dunked.”
Fisher received a four-year college scholarship, selecting CCSU over Division 1 and Division 2 schools that had corresponded with her. She said she is sad that her playing days are over.
“It was really hard at first to give up the game,” said Fisher, who is the coordinator of CCSU’s intramural sports leagues. “My parents were really supportive of my decision and thinking about my future. They have been supportive through all of it, everything that I’ve done.”
Fisher has spent part of her winter break as a volunteer coach on Ignacio Oyola’s staff at Winthrop.
“I try to focus on the post players because that’s where I can relate and give some pointers,” said Fisher. “I’ve worked with Jaida Hightower, Poli Tsiotos, and Nina Bartlette, who’s a Division 1 prospect. This is a really good Winthrop team. But there are still things we can improve on, though. ”
Fisher said following her commencement in May, she hopes to pursue a Master’s degree in Athletic Administration at Endicott College in Beverly.
“Eventually I’d like to be an athletic director,” said Fisher. “I hope to be able to assist coach Oyola in the program next season. I want to coach and be an athletic administrator at a high school or college.”