Johnson, Obafemi finish 10th season as teammates

Senior center Jasmine Johnson (left) and senior guard Vanessa Obafemi (center) huddle before WKU’s game on Wednesday against Arkansas State. The DeSoto, Texas natives have been teammates since seventh grade. “Besides sleeping, we’re almost always together,” Johnson said.

Brad Stephens

Jasmine Johnson and Vanessa Obafemi spend just about every waking moment together.

They’re roommates, Zeta Phi Beta sorority sisters, healthcare administration classmates and fellow Campus Activities Board members.

On top of all that, the two DeSoto, Texas natives are senior WKU basketball players in the thick of their 10th year playing the sport together.

“Besides sleeping,” Johnson said, “we’re almost always together.”

Johnson, a 6-foot-3 center, and Obafemi, a 5-foot-10 guard, began playing together as seventh graders at DeSoto East Junior High School.

The two went on to DeSoto High School, where they caught the eye of Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles while leading their high school team to a 37-2 record during their senior season.

“Athletically, we knew about Jasmine,” Cowles said. “You typically find out about 6-foot-3 post players.

“And in recruiting Jasmine… is when we saw Vanessa and her ability to shoot the basketball, and that kind of opened our eyes.”

After being recruited by Cowles and former assistant Nikki McCray, Johnson and Obafemi both decided to come to WKU.

“We called each other,” Johnson said of the day they both committed. “We both really liked our visit and the atmosphere on campus… The academic part just really got our attention, too.”

Neither Johnson nor Obafemi saw immediate playing time for the Lady Toppers.

Johnson averaged 10.4, 5.6 and 10.4 minutes per game, respectively, in her first three seasons while playing behind star forward Arnika Brown.

Likewise, Obafemi averaged 6.4 and 7.2 minutes per game during her freshman and sophomore years. 

But this year, Obafemi has started all but four games, averaging 6.9 points per game and hitting a team-high 37 threes. Meanwhile, Johnson has averaged 4.4 points and 5.1 rebounds a game, and her 35 blocked shots rank fourth in the Sun Belt Conference.

 “They had to kind of put in their time in their career. It wasn’t something where they walked in the door as freshmen and started playing and were in the lineup,” Cowles said. “They’ve both had to endure the process of being in college for four years.”

Through that college process, Obafemi said her friendship with Johnson has developed to the point where she “pretty much knows everything” about her teammate.

“I think our relationship just grew over the years from being around each other through basketball,” Obafemi said.

Johnson agreed, saying that her bond with Obafemi has developed into an on-court asset.

“We’ve been playing together so long, I don’t think I could find another teammate like Vanessa,” Johnson said. 

Johnson and Obafemi will play their final career regular season game in Diddle Arena at 1 p.m. on Sunday against league rival Middle Tennessee State.

WKU currently has an eight-game losing streak to the Lady Raiders, with the Lady Toppers’ last win in the series coming in March of 2008, when Johnson and Obafemi were seniors at DeSoto High.

Both Obafemi and Johnson said Sunday, which will be their Senior Day, will be an emotional moment in their careers.

“We haven’t really been through this before other than high school on Senior Night,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be kind of different, playing in front of a different crowd, and it’s our rivalry team, so it’s like, ‘Oh gosh.’”