Siblings Isia and Iszia Johnson have nearly identical names, identical numbers on their Auburn High School basketball jerseys and an identical love for the sport.
The Johnsons are known by others as the “IJ’s.” All six children in their family have first names that begin with the letter “I,” like their father, Ishely Johnson. But what sets apart Isia, a junior on Auburn’s girls basketball team, and Iszia, a senior on the boys team, is their athleticism. Their mother, Earlean Johnson, said Isia and Iszia didn’t inherit their basketball skills from their mom or dad.
“I have no idea where they got their talent,” she said. “We didn’t even watch sports.”
The siblings have been on Auburn’s varsity basketball teams since they were freshmen and have blossomed into some of the South Puget Sound League North’s top players. Iszia is averaging 16.5 points a game and has helped the seventh-ranked Auburn boys stay near the top of the league standings.
Auburn boys coach Ryan Hansen said he’s impressed by Iszia’s speed and athleticism, but it’s his leadership that has earned him a spot as team captain for the past two years.
“He can have a good time, but he has the ability to focus in when it is important,” Hansen said. “He makes good decisions, and he is just a good kid to be around.”
Isia, who’s averaging about 12 points a game for the Trojans girls, has drawn the attention of opposing teams, coach Adam Ladage said.
“She has done things to make herself a better player,” he said. “She knows her weaknesses, and she tries to work on them.”
Competitors on the court, it’s no surprise that Iszia and Isia have a healthy sibling rivalry. Isia said her brother motivates her to be better, and she strives to hang with him.
“I look at my brother and see how well he does,” she said. “I want to be better than him. Even though it is really hard, it’s what drives me.”
Last year, she even changed her number to 34 to match her brother’s.
“I look up to him,” she said. “He’s my hero.”
Likewise, Iszia said his sister helps him out on the court before games, offering pointers and observations. The things she says sticks with him when he’s playing, he said.
Support from their family has been a key component of the pair’s success. Earlean attends the first game of every season for both teams and all of the home games that follow.
“There’s always people there pushing you,” Iszia said. “My family always comes expecting great things.”
Isia added that the family is “always there when times are hard.”
Moving forward, both athletes see themselves playing at the college level. For Isia, that could be in volleyball or basketball.
“I see her going to the Olympics for volleyball,” Earlean said, bursting with a mother’s pride.
For now, Earlean is enjoying watching her kids excel in high school.
“I’m just so proud,” she said. “Every time I step foot in the gym to watch them, I feel like a star.”