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Sarah Hopkins-Chery enters her second season as the head coach for the University of California, Merced women's basketball team.
Hopkins-Chery had a dream first season, leading the women's team to the first undefeated conference record in school history, and topping it off with the team's second consecutive California Pacific Conference Tournament Championship and trip to the NAIA Women's Basketball National Championship Tournament. In addition to the conference championship, Hopkins-Chery helped Jecenia Trinidad earn the conference's Defensive Player of the Year award, and Courtney Danna earn Conference Player of the Year, as well as being named an NAIA All-American. She also helped three players earn All-Cal Pac First Team, one player earn Second Team, and one player earn Honorable Mention status. For all her accomplishments, Hopkins-Chery was named the Cal Pac Conference Coach of the Year.
Prior to UC Merced, Hopkins-Chery coached at Park University (NAIA, DI) in Parkville, Missouri.
A native of Essex, England, Hopkins-Chery brings both playing and coaching experience to UC Merced. In England Hopkins-Chery attended Greensward College and attributes much of her stardom in the game of basketball to the Swifts Basketball Club along with Greensward. While with Swifts and Greensward, both teams were yearly national championship contenders, while she was a player and a coach.
She first earned international playing experience with the Under 16 and Under 20 England teams and eventually England’s senior women’s nation team in 2002.
Hopkins-Chery attended and played basketball at Jefferson College where she was an NJCAA Academic All-American Scholar-Athlete in 2005, All-Region Academic Team member in 2005 and a two-time MCCAC Academic All-Conference honoree. Additionally the Vikings were conference champions in 2004 and 2005 while she was a part of the program.
After two years at Jefferson she transferred to Park University where she became a standout on the women’s basketball team. As a player at Park she helped lead a Pirates squad to the programs first-ever appearance in the NAIA National Tournament in 2005-06 after winning a conference title in the Association of Independent Institutions (AII). Hopkins-Chery was also honored as an AII-Academic All-Conference member and an NAIA All-American Scholar-Athlete in 2006 (the first of three times she received this honor).
Unfortunately an injury she suffered forced her to retire her basketball playing career but she quickly turned her sights onto her next adventure: track and cross country at Park University. She ran on a cross country team in 2007 that were Conference and Regional Champions qualifying for the NAIA National Championship meet while she individually earned MCAC All-Conference honors. In 2008 she ran track for Park with a 4x800 team who qualified for the NAIA National Championship meet that year as well.
As a 2007 graduate of Park University with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Psychology she returned to Park to complete her Masters of Arts degree in Communication and Leadership in 2009. In 2012-13, Hopkins-Chery returned to Park University again, this time as an assistant coach where she has been for the past three seasons.
The depth of coaching experience she brings to UC Merced also includes the State and Regional (Essex and East of England) youth representative teams, the girls head junior varsity and assistant varsity coach at St. Pius X, head coach of P.L.A.Y., and Native Vision summer camps, to name just a few.
Coach Shawnta Johnson enters her fourth year as the UC Merced Women’s Basketball Assistant Coach. Coach Johnson is a native of Merced, California. She attended Merced High School in Merced, California for three years before transferring to Edison High School in Merced, California, class of 1996. At Merced High, Johnson started on varsity all three years, making the All-Conference team and scoring a career high 53 points in a single game her sophomore year. At Edison High, Johnson’s senior year, she was awarded Most Valuable Player Team honors, made the All-Conference Team and helped lead the team to their first playoff appearance in school history.
After graduating from high school, Johnson attended Howard Junior College in Big Spring, Texas from 1996-1998. Johnson studied Sociology/Psychology during her college career, while being a student athlete. She competed in the Western Junior College Athletic Conference/NJCAA Region 5, where she would go on to make First Team All-Conference in consecutive seasons, receive the NJCAA Region 5 Tournament Most Valuable Player Award and make the All-Tournament Team. She would help her team to a 3rd place ranking in the Nation in the 1998 NJCAA Tournament.
Johnson would then transfer to Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, which she attended from 1998-2000. She competed in the Southland Conference/NCAA Division I, where she would go on to make First Team All-Southland Conference in consecutive seasons and receive the Southland Conference Tournament Most Valuable Player Award. Johnson helped lead her team to two NCAA Tournament appearances, while receiving All-Time Letterman honors and was induced into the Southland Conference 20 All-Decade Players of 2000.
After college, Johnson played semi-pro with the Houston Jaguars from 2000-2009. She then continued with the team as a player/assistant/mentor from 2010-2012. Johnson then made her UC Merced coaching debut during the 2013-2014 season.