By MATTHEW STEVENS
Craig Sword became the first verbal commitment of Mississippi State's 2012 men's basketball recruiting class Monday.
The junior guard, who averaged 17 points, seven boards and four assists last year to help lead Carver to a 34-2 record and a berth in the Class 6A AHSAA championship game, informed the Bulldogs coaching staff Monday morning he had picked Mississippi State after receiving
offers from Alabama, Georgia and Auburn.
Sword began to be recruited heavily after an impressive performance at Nike EYBL at the Boo Williams Sportsplex in Hampton, Va., while playing for the Alabama Challenge summer team.
"He led our team in scoring and was our shut-down defender at the other end," Alabama Challenge AAU head coach Robert Shannon said. "They clearly saw a real athletic kid that can play above the rim."
According to his AAU coach, Sword will be used primarily at the shooting guard position but has improved his ball-handling skills enough to start the MSU motion offense if need be.
"He's built for the SEC right now and is already an excellent defender," Shannon said.
According to NCAA rules, Mississippi State coaches are unable to comment on recruits until they sign their National Letter of Intent and are not allowed to make an official written offer to recruits until they began their senior year of high school.
Sword is a high school and AAU teammate of forward Roquez Johnson, State's late signee for next season.
"I wouldn't say they were a package deal because they're good friends, don't get me wrong, but they are their own individuals and made their choices based on what they liked about Mississippi State," Shannon said.
Rivals.com rates the four-star prospect as the 63rd-best overall prospect for 2012 and 11th-best rated shooting guard in his class.
Sword will have his first opportunity to officially sign with State during the early period this November similarly to how State's first three 2011 signees (Rodney Hood, Deville Smith and D.J. Gardner) ended their recruiting process.