Janae Poisson: The 7-year veteran of NIU


Nyla Owens

Huskies guard Janae Poisson (22) high fives her teammates before a timeout during the team’s game against Eastern Michigan on Wednesday at the NIU Convocation Center. Poisson earned an NIU record for the most double doubles in a career with the team during the game and the Huskies clinched a seeding in the MAC Basketball Championship bracket. (Nyla Owens | Northern Star)

By DeOndre Saunders, Sports Reporter

In her seven years of being a member of the NIU women’s basketball team, graduate guard Janae Poisson has grown as the voice and leader of her team. 

She is now looking to achieve her goal of playing basketball professionally overseas after college.

“I’m looking to go pro and a lot of people are surprised when I tell them that because I’m so old,” Poisson said. “My body is still allowing me to play and I feel like I could still play at a high-level, so that’s the first thing I’m looking to do when I’m done.”

She isn’t looking for a specific place overseas to play, but she said she has a former teammate Courtney Woods, who plays in the WNBL in Australia who she talked to about overseas ball. She hopes to one day play in the WNBA.

Growing up in Matteson

Poisson grew up in the Chicago south suburbs of Matteson, Illinois, which is an hour and 10 minutes from DeKalb. 

She started playing basketball in the third grade. She went to Marian Catholic High School where she played basketball, track and volleyball. 

Poisson said she has a really big family, and her family was actually the biggest in attendance for her Senior Day game on Feb. 25 against Central Michigan University. She has a little sister who is 15 and plays basketball at Marian Catholic. 

Poisson said she chose to play at NIU because of head coach Lisa Carlsen.

 “She has the same mindset I do – you wanna win games no matter the cost,” Poisson said. “I didn’t meet the team, but I met the coaching staff.”

Carlsen saw Poisson mostly play with her AAU team, the Illinois Defenders. 

“What stood out the most was she was very competitive and loved to win,” Carlsen said. “She had a competitive edge, and I thought that was something this program needed from that standpoint.”

ACL Injury

Poisson tore her ACL in November 2018 in a game against Western Illinois University. Carlsen talked about Poisson’s recovery journey. 

“The coolest thing about her journey is overcoming serious injuries,” Carlsen said. “It’s a lot of kids that come back from ACL injuries but retearing it and essentially having three years where you almost don’t play, then going through the entire rehab where you’re fighting to get back to the court is a pretty heartwarming journey.”

Carlsen said her game did have to change slightly. “She was always a shooter, but she was limited to mid-range shots and getting to the rim,” Carlsen said.

Through her recovery process, Poisson said her favorite basketball player is New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose because of the similar adversity he had to face with injuries. 

“Obviously he’s a hometown hero to Chicago,” Poisson said. “He’s been going through the injuries and coming back, he’s like a personal role model to me.”

Seven-year veteran 

Poisson has been at NIU since 2016. “As a player coming in I didn’t think I was gonna be one of the best shooters to come through,” Poisson said.  “Making 200 threes wasn’t on my agenda, I just wanted to win games.”

During her seven years at NIU, she has been a part of many teams. “I’ve seen the culture has grown so much,” Poisson said. “Playing for each other and having a family-oriented mindset on and off the court, we’ve definitely grown since 2016.”

In a victory over Western Illinois University on Nov. 18, 2022, she dropped 32 points off the bench and hit the 1,000-point mark. She said hitting the 1,000-point mark was one of her goals for this season and that she was super excited when she accomplished it.

“The best part about the game is no one expecting me to do it that game,” Poisson said. “I was 30 points away and no one expected me to drop 30 points that game.” 

She has been known as a notable person off the bench as she won the Mid-American Conference Sixth Player of the Year award in the 2020-21 season. She wants to win the Sixth Player of the Year award again.

 “It’s not in my mind every game to win Sixth Player of the Year, it just comes naturally when you do your role and play your part,” Poisson said.

This season will be her last with the Huskies as she prepares to graduate. Poisson earned her bachelor’s in psychology with a minor in counseling. She is now getting her master’s in May in clinical mental health.