When you hear the name Williamsport, Pennsylvania, what do you think? Home of the Little League World Series, right? Right. Williamsport however is not known for producing NBA caliber players. Now how about Missouri State University? Are they known for producing NBA players? Not exactly. They have put four players in school history into the NBA, with only one coming in the last four decades. But those connotations are about to change via Alize Johnson.
Coming out of St. John Neumann High in Williamsport, PA, Johnson chose to continue his basketball career at Frank Phillips College, a junior college. After two successful seasons there, which included him averaging a double-double his sophomore year, Johnson chose to attend Missouri State over Houston, Buffalo, and Miami (OH) among others.
Alize Johnson was a monumental get for Missouri State, and his impact was felt immediately. Johnson started all 33 games for the Bears and averaged 14.8 points per game and 10.6 rebounds per game. He helped lead the Bears to 17 wins, the second most wins the Bears had in their last seven seasons. He was voted Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the Year and was also voted First Team All-MVC. Johnson and the Bears reached the semifinals in the MVC Tournament and Johnson was voted to the MVC All-Tournament Team as well.
After an outstanding junior season, expectations for Johnson grew even larger for his final collegiate season in 2017-18. But of course, Johnson would not disappoint. He would once again start all 33 games for the Bears and averaged 15 points per game along with 11.6 rebounds per game. Johnson was a double-double machine all throughout college and led the Valley in rebounding in both of his seasons at Missouri State. The Bears would win 18 games that season, one more than the previous year. Johnson would once again be voted First Team All-MVC and also finished second in voting for MVC Player of the Year next to Clayton Custer, who helped the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers miraculously reach the Final Four.
So, after a semifinal loss in the MVC Tournament to the Southern Illinois Salukis in his senior season, Alize Johnson’s college career was over. Now he has his sights set on something much bigger: the NBA. Johnson is an ideal size for a forward at 6’8” 200 lbs. Johnson is an extremely raw talent, who with some fine tuning, could become a great NBA player. Johnson is an animal on the glass, a gifted defender, and can score on the inside with ease. Scouts have said they would like to see him improve his outside shooting though.
Johnson could perhaps be one of the biggest steals of the 2018 NBA Draft. In what has become a three-point shooting league, Johnson could be overlooked by a lot of teams since quality big men in the NBA seem to be undervalued. He did shoot 33% from three in two years at Missouri State, but struggled his senior year, shooting just 28% from three. Regardless, and just as with any other NBA prospect, there is always room for improvement and the right coaching staff and right situation can mean the world for a player.
Johnson is projected as a second-round pick right now. He had a decent showing at the NBA Combine, and says he models his game after players such as Lamar Odom and Draymond Green. When interviewed at the combine, Johnson said “There’s a lot of players out there that just do those small things that people don’t really notice until the game is over.” Odom has been retired since 2013, but Draymond Green represents a perfect example of what Johnson could become in today’s game.
Green is known for his tough defense and rebounding skills, a critically overlooked aspect of the Golden State Warriors’ game. Green, while known for his tough defensive play, can also score. Green has averaged over 10 PPG in each of his last four seasons and has also put up nearly 40 points in a playoff game before, so his scoring ability is there. Johnson, with proper coaching and development, could surely fit a Draymond Green-esque type role. It will all depend on the team and fit. The NBA Draft is on June 21st at 7:00pm on ESPN, so tune in and see where the potential steal of the draft Alize Johnson goes.