Mississippi State has added to its nationally ranked 2011 recruiting class with a verbal commitment from a rising forward from Alabama.
Roquez Johnson, a two-star forward from Montgomery, Ala., verbally agreed to join the Bulldogs program Wednesday.
Johnson, a 6-foot-6 forward, averaged 16 points and 13.2 rebounds. He guided Montgomery Carver High School to a 33-2 record this past season and reached the Alabama Class 6A semifinals in Birmingham.
“The first thing you’ll see about him is the bounce he has off the floor,” Carver High School head coach James Jackson said. “He’s exciting to watch because he can rebound that basketball from anywhere.”
Johnson, who has grown nearly six inches since his freshman year of high school a long, lean, athletic combo forward that now plays bigger than his 6-foot-6 frame would suggest because of a 7-foot-3 wingspan.
“He’s a hardworking pit bull,” Johnson’s AAU coach Robert Shannon said. “Whether he's a three or four don't matter because the coach will realize he has to have him out there. It's that simple."
Mississippi State coaches are unable to comment by NCAA rule on prospects until they sign a National Letter of Intent with a school. However first-year MSU assistant George Brooks recruited Johnson’s brother, Robert, to Meridian Community College.
Due to being a guard in size until final few years of high school, Jackson says the power forward has ball-handling skills that are unique to player with his size.
“He just suddenly sprouted up and he’s already got that face-up game you need if you’re a tweener position-wise,” Jackson said. “He’s already got that college body and he’s what coaches call high energy.”
Despite reports saying he was considering offers from Alabama, Missouri and Missouri State along with a long-standing relationship with the Bulldogs program, Shannon insists his forward wasn’t ever going to sign with the home state Crimson Tide.
"He told me for years - coach, I want to leave Alabama,” Shannon said. “There wasn’t any way he was going to sign with them.”
In 2009, Johnson was unfortunately involved in a brawl that drew national attention during a regional semifinal game at Alabama State University against Valley High in which caused Carver High School to receive $2,600 fine and banned the school from playing in any tournaments for the rest of the season.
“It was one of those situations where we’re up 17 with three minutes to go and he got a hard foul and there’s no excuses for it because it was a melee it was the worst situation in my life as a coach,” Jackson said. “We did a lot of community things after and he really stepped up to the plate telling kids that’s not how you want to be.”
Rivals.com lists Johnson as a two-star prospect and he will join perimeter players Deville Smith, Rodney Hood and D.J. Gardner in a class that ranks 15th-best in the country according to ESPN.com.
“The coaches around the country were all saying the same things which was if he could keep working hard, he could be in a top program,” Jackson said. “He’ll be one of those kids two years from now where coaches will be saying he’s a force in one of the premier leagues in America.”
One of the reasons big programs were shying away early on from recruiting his power forward is his trouble with scoring higher than a 16 on the ACT but handled that problem a few months ago with a more than qualifying number. Johnson will be able to sign with Mississippi State on April 13, which marks the beginning of the spring signing period.
“Mississippi State coaches including coach Stansbury were on him no matter what and I think that relationship and that commitment was a major reason he chose to go there,’ Jackson said.