(Editor's note: University of Montana media release)
MISSOULA -- Former Lady Griz McKenzie Johnston isn’t done playing basketball quite yet.
Johnston has signed a contract to play the upcoming season with Falcons Bad Homburger TG of the Bundesliga, the second-highest women’s basketball league in Germany.
Johnston will leave the U.S. in late August and play her first game with her new team in less than a month.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to play professionally,” she said. “Once I started playing open gyms again, I knew I wasn’t done playing. I started looking forward to being able to play some more.”
If it was always a dream, Johnston, who was voted first-team All-Big Sky Conference as a senior, began looking into it with earnest once her Montana career came to an end in March 2020.
But then the world went into a lockdown and sports leagues were shuttered.
She was in discussion with a team in Sweden last winter about playing the back half of its schedule, but that fell through. In March she signed with a team in Australia. She had her visa in hand and her bags packed. She just needed the Australian government to issue her a travel exemption.
She kept training, kept playing, but when the target, both the location and the date, keeps changing, it can be difficult to keep pushing forward, to keep working toward something that may or may not happen.
“It’s been hard. I’ve been trying to decide if I need to stop and move on and try to figure out what I want to do as a career, because I was getting tired of just waiting around,” she said.
Then her agent, former Lady Griz great Jeanne McNulty-King, came to her with a new option, this one in Germany. She talked to the coaches, loved everything about it, signed.
As an added bonus, Johnston will reunite with former AAU teammate Lizzy Klinker, another McNulty-King client who played at Utah State and later Idaho. The Montana natives will live together in Germany and play for the same team.
Johnston, who made 112 starts for Montana, missed just one game in her Lady Griz career, as a junior to attend her sister’s wedding.
She’ll be on the sideline in Butte on Aug. 28 when Montana Tech hosts Eastern Oregon. She’ll fly out on the 30th, arriving in Germany in time to make the team’s first practice on the 31st.
The team’s first game is Sept. 4. The season runs through the end of April.
“It’s a great starting point,” she said. “I just want to make an impression and enjoy it and see if it’s something I want to continue to do for a few years or if it’s time to move on and do something else with my life besides playing basketball.”