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One of the driving forces behind this site is to cover basketball outside of 94 feet, outside of just the section of Atlanta I reside and outside of the great state of North Carolina.
Well, Alize Johnson, the reigning Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the Year, helped make that happen. I’ve never met the 6-9 forward, who averaged 15 points and nearly 11 rebounds for Missouri State last season, but because of his cousin Derek (you never know who your coworker knows), I was able to get in touch with Johnson on the final Sunday of July.
Also a Williamsport, Pennsylvania native, Johnson spoke about his goals for the 2017-18 campaign, what he was told during the NBA pre-draft process before deciding to return to the Bears, what the critics think about his game and other topics in this edition of 1-on-1.
What advice did you receive after your pre-draft workout with the Boston Celtics?
The advice I got was to be a leader. Go out there and compete like I’ve done–just have another good year and everything else will take care of itself.
Also around that time a short video was posted of you working out with NBA skills trainer Rob Yanders, the founder and director of The Basketball Movement. What was that experience like?
Rob has some really intense workouts that I go and do here and there when I get a chance to outside of practice and my own workouts. He is just a high-level trainer that has been through it. He had a lot of guys come in there to do pre-draft workouts and things of that sort. Whenever I get a chance to get in there with him, we mainly focus on skills that I don’t usually put into my game, finishing with my left hand and dribbling with my left hand. Side steps. Wrap arounds. All types of basketball handling drills.
DraftExpress posted a video on YouTube highlighting your strengths and weaknesses. What are your thoughts on that critique?
I agreed with everything DraftExpress had to say. DraftExpress is a pretty accurate website. They know what they are talking about. I didn’t have a good free-throw percentage but that was just mental. After getting out there on the big stage and missing a couple you start to get that doubt in your head that. It’s just about locking in and blocking all of that out. As far as being able to finish and everything like that, I do need to improve on that–be more consistent and I can be streaky at times shooting the ball. They also said my left hand was shaky, which I just think I need to start using more. I’m used to just always using my right hand. I don’t ever think about using my left.
What do you hope to change about your scouting report?
My main focus this year is to be a great defender, something that I really didn’t focus on last year. Being there for my team on both ends of the floor–that is really my main priority.
What are your expectations for your final college season?
Be a team leader and keep my team’s eyes on the main goal of winning the NCAA tournament and winning the league.
Why are you able to score and rebound the way you do?
It’s something naturally that Iv’e been able to do over my career. I work on my game a lot. I practice after practice if that makes sense. The coaching staff just puts me in a good position scoring wise with my teammates.
(Johnson had five 20-point, 15-rebound games last season and led the MVC with 17 double-doubles.)
Is there a moment from your junior season you look back on and say that was special?
Getting hot against USC and almost bringing us back. I hit like three 3s in under a minute and a half. That was just a fun experience even though we lost.
(Johnson finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and five assists. “The last 2 1/2 minutes took about 25 minutes,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “But give Missouri State credit. They have some good shooters and they made some 3s at the end.”)
Kobe Bryant and Eddie Jones were two of your favorite NBA players, and you appreciate the skills Kevin Durant and LeBron James display on the court now but which player do you get compared to often?
I like watching Draymond Green play just because he does the things that I do. He rebounds, gets in transition, passes and scores.
Do you have any pregame rituals?
Before every game starts, I will throw the ball on the rim and see which way it bounces to just get a feel for it for rebounding purposes.
Outside of playing video games (NBA 2K and Grand Theft Auto), do you have any surprising hobbies?
I’ve been fixing iPhone screens since I was 17.
How do your Christian beliefs influence you as a basketball player?
I don’t know where I would be without God because my mom got me in the church early and my grandma has her own church. Prayer and going to church every Sunday has been my life. When I didn’t qualify straight out of high school, my mom prayed for me every day telling me I was going to play Division I. She kept telling me my dreams of going to the NBA are going to present itself so when it comes to God my family doesn’t play about that at all just because of the miraculous things that He has done for our family that would be shocking to others.
What do you enjoy most about playing basketball?
Probably just giving that excitement to kids when they watch you or see stuff that you are doing. It’s just nice to be a role model or the face of something that kids dream about.