Derunzia, also known as Jab Johnson, was born and raised in the small of town Corey, Louisiana. Growing up Jab had always been taller than the rest of her peers. That combined with her love of the game of basketball intrigued her and helped her dreams of being a basketball star form. She began to develop her game and starting practicing and playing at a very young age. By the time Jab was in her teen years, she had developed her game so much that she was chosen to be a part of the Caldwell High School Women’s basketball team. By Jab’s junior year in high school she had gotten pregnant and was blessed with a beautiful baby boy. In no way did that stop her from reaching and achieving the goals and dreams she had set up in her life. Her hard work and dedication continued to pay off and helped Johnson lead her high school team The Caldwell Lady Spartans to the championship four years in a row. As if that wasn’t enough and Jab’s plate wasn’t already overflowing she was also able to play Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball out of New Orleans for Coach Domino.
After High School Jab received, scholarship offers from schools all over. However, she decided to stay close to home and attend Northeast Louisiana University (NLU). Even though she was determined to finish out her schooling and receive her degree Jab had a son to look after and wanted to stay close to home. Another reason Jab chose to attend NLU was the fact that her cousin Lisa Thornton went to Louisiana State University (LSU) and Pam Kelly went to Louisiana Tech. All three ladies went to Caldwell Parish High School, so she wanted to go somewhere where she could make a name for herself. Over Jab’s entire basketball career at NLU starting in 1987 and ending in 1990 she was able to break tons of records. She scored a total of 1,542 points; averaging 18.8 points each game which earned her a rank at number four in career points scored for the Lady Warhawks. Jab was also able to snag a total of 1,006 rebounds with an average of 12.3 rebounds per game during her time playing for NLU. She is ranked seventh in blocked shots and was able to block a total of 100 shots during her college career. Jab was also a three-time All-Southland Conference selection and was also named to the Southland’s 1980’s All-Decade team in 2013.
Jab is very thankful for the support and love that she received from her family and she knows she would not have been able to reach any of her goals without the support of God and her family. Her mother Gloria Atkins and her late grandmother Clara Thornton were her angels. Normally when you have a child that is your child and your responsibility. Her mother and grandmother knew Jab’s goal was to go to college and play basketball, so they were willing to be her support system. Her family wanted her to follow her dreams and goals. They did not want anything to stand in her way or delay her from reaching her goals. Jab not only had the support of her family, but she also had the support of people outside of her family like her high school coach Gay Greer, her elementary school coaches Clarice Kennedy, and Mary Alice Wiley.
At NLU Jab majored in General Studies because at the time she was unsure of what career she wanted to pursue in life. At the time she only knew that she wanted to play basketball. Jab had a strong desire to play pro ball over seas, and she was fortunate enough to be able to do so for two and a half years. She was able to travel and play in places like Calais, France, Pryca, Manresa. After Jab finished playing overseas, she returned to the States and got a job as a substitute teacher. After substitute, teaching for some time Jab moved careers and got a job at Wal-Mart starting as a cashier. Her hard work and dedication earned her the ability to be able to move up the ladder and become a store manager. Since starting as a cashier at Wal-Mart Johnson has now been employed there for over 20 years now.
Jab thanks God every day for giving her this gift; she has never taken it for granted. Her career in basketball has been very good to her and she has loved every single minute of it. Especially her time playing overseas even though it was a real eye opener for her. She loved traveling to different places and meeting a variety of new people. The treatment Jab got while in Spain was unbelievable. It was like the sky was the limit and she was at the top. Not only did Jab see people that she played against in college, but she also saw people that were ahead of her in college. While playing overseas she had the opportunity to play in the same gym where they shot the movie Love and Basketball.
In 2016, Jab got a phone call informing her that she had been nominated to be inducted into the University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM) L Club’s Hall of Fame. On November 5, 2016, Johnson got her big day and was inducted into ULM L Club’s Hall of Fame. Johnson says winning that honor was a team effort, and she gives her teammates the credit would not have been able to do any of it without them. Jab also wants to give all the coaches who pushed and supported her along her journey credit. Johnson said she would have never thought in a million years that this would have happened to her. All of it was an honor and to have her son Jamie introduce her to receive this award was special. Jab believes that anything is possible. As long as you stay focused on your dreams and your goals, you can do whatever you set your mind on. Never listen to negative people that only want to see you fail or struggle and people who do not mean you any good. Jab says, “At the end of the day my dreams and your dreams are totally different. Always keep God first and everything else will fall into place. I would not take anything away from my journey. The highs or the lows, the ups and downs, because it made me the woman that I am today.”