BROOKLYN, NY — With the second round of the NBA Draft winding down, Missouri State fans wondered if Alize Johnson would hear his name called, or if he would receive a call in free agency.
With the 50th pick overall in the second round, the Indiana Pacers select Alize. This was one of the teams Johnson worked out for in the weeks leading up to the NBA Draft.
A night earlier, Alize held a meet-and-greet at an outdoor basketball court in his hometown of Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
“I just hope everyone remembers me as staying down to earth and humble and being the same guy I’ve always been,” Johnson said in an interview with WNEP.
“He’s worked really hard,” Alize’s mother Chanelle said. “We’re believing God is going to do something amazing.”
Alize says he’s dreamed of playing the NBA since the third grade. A point guard in high school, he experienced a late growth spurt. In 2011, Johnson was a 5’9″ freshman point guard at St. John Neumann High School. By the time he as a senior, Johnson found his height and found himself as Mr. Basketball in Pennsylvania.
Needing to work on his academics, Johnson went to Frank Phillips Junior College in Texas. He earned All-America honors in his sophomore year thanks to 16.7 points and 12 rebounds. His coach Chris Hackett knew the now 6’9″ Alize belonged on a Division I basketball team. Years earlier at Missouri Southern, Hackett knew Paul Lusk and quickly reached out to the Bears head coach.
Hackett arranged a workout for Alize. Lusk said Johnson did all the little things right and he wanted the JuCo standout in Springfield.
In Alize’s first season under Lusk, he averaged 14.8 points and his 10.6 rebounds per game. He was named to the first-team All Valley squad thanks to 17 double-doubles; 15th in the nation.
By his sophomore year, the conference was looking at him as the odds-on favorite for the Larry Bird, MVP honor. Alize averaged 15-points and 11.6 rebounds per game despite drawing double and even triple team assignments against him.
Some reviews on Johnson say he’s undersized for a power forward; but has great tools to work with as a small forward. Some have been critical on his jump shot. Others, complimentary on his defense and lateral movement.
Johnson becomes the first Bear drafted since Winston Garland in 1987. Garland went 40th overall to the Milwaukee Bucks. Missouri State has now had 13 players drafted into the pros.