“How my coaches here at UAA talk about sports, it expresses morals. It is like real life, and I wish more people had the opportunity to experience it,” says Hanna Johansson, a 6’2” forward on the UAA women’s basketball team.
The Gothenburg, Sweden, native is one of four starters returning next season for the Seawolves, who finished their season with a 24-5 record. A sophomore this year, Johansson averaged 12.5 points, 9 rebounds and 2.5 assists in UAA’s two playoff contests, including her first career double-double – 18 points and 10 rebounds – in UAA’s 69-50 first-round win over Cal Poly Pomona. On March 15 she was named to the NCAA Division II Women’s Basketball West Regional Championships all-tournament team.
Johansson says she never had a coach that pushed her as much as head coach Tim Moser. “I have grown so much more here than with the coaches back home. Moser really knows basketball!”
Before coming to America, Johansson played for Swedish National Team age-group squads for five years and attended high school and played at the National Basketball Academy in Jonkoping. She played for Swedish squads that captured the silver medal at the 2007 International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Under-19 World Championships and the bronze medal at the 2006 FIBA Under-18 European Championships.
Johansson says that at first it was difficult adjusting to living in a new country with a different language and social customs. She explains how in Sweden it is not common for people to say hi to strangers in passing or to be overly friendly at an initial meeting.
“It takes longer to get to know people in my home country. When I first came here I had a lot of friends all of a sudden; people here are so nice. It took a little time to learn how to adjust, but I believe just coming to another country helped me grow and realize more things about life and myself.”
It’s hard to imagine anyone not liking this promising young athlete. She exudes strength and kindness. But she does acknowledge how she can get fiercely competitive at times, with winning being the only thing on her mind. She says her parents help keep her grounded. Also, she’s met a few friends from Sweden who live in Anchorage she spends time with, enjoying dinner at their house or going to the movies together.
After college and basketball, Johansson aspires to become a photojournalist. She recalls seeing a photo of a little girl crying and standing next to a well in the Middle East. “It had a big impact on me. I want to have an impact on other people like that, to bring awareness and contribute to the discussion of what is going on in the world.”