MINNEAPOLIS - Tessa Johnson remembers picking up her cell phone and being in a state of shock.
The St. Michael-Albertville girls basketball star got a text from her coach, Kent Hamre, which also went to her teammates and family. In 18 years as a head coach, Hamre had never had a McDonald’s All-American.
That changed in the past week as Johnson was selected to play in the McDonald’s All-American Game, which features the top 24 girls and boys basketball players in the country. She’s the first in the Knights’ program to get the honor, and the 20th Minnesotan to get it.
"I was just in awe. I looked at it and I just stared at it because I was honestly in disbelief. It means a lot, I know that I have things to do and a lot of work has paid off," Johnson told Fox 9 Thursday night at an event at the McDonald’s in St. Michael.
Hamre knew he had a special talent in Johnson going back to when she was in fourth grade. So what separates her from other good players to be one of the best in the country? A constant drive to get better.
He said the Knight got back from a road game earlier this season at almost 11 p.m. Johnson had a game that didn’t meet her lofty standards. She asked Hamre if she could go into the gym and get some shots up. He had to ask the high school custodian to stay and keep the gym open for her.
"I don’t know what time she left, that’s how driven she is," Hamre said. "She’s a kid that’s never satisfied with her game. She wants to get better, she’s the one that’s always pushing everybody around her to get better."
Johnson nearly led the Knights to a state championship last season, and the goal is to get back there this year. She fielded scholarship offers from across the country and had a final two of South Carolina, and staying home to play for Lindsay Whalen and the Gophers.
She’s headed to Columbia to play for the Gamecocks.
"It feels great. It feels like I earned it, but I still have more work to do. I still have more to prove, and still need to make a better name for myself," Johnson said.
Johnson also joins rare company in Minnesota girl's basketball. She’s the seventh girls’ player in state history to be named a McDonald’s All-American. She joins Maya Nnaji, Paige Bueckers, Nia Coffey, Rebekah Dahlman, Tayler Hill and Liz Podominick. Minnesota has had a girls' player be a McDonald's All-American three out of the last four years.
"Look at the talent that’s come out of the state of Minnesota, it is crazy. For her to be a part of that and to be one of the top 24 women’s basketball players in the country, a lot to be said about that," Hamre said.
The McDonald's All-American Games are set for March 28 in Houston.