Bulldogs count on Johnson

Roquez Johnson is the only scholarship player left from the Rick Stansbury era at Mississippi State. (AP Photo/Jim Lytle)

Roquez Johnson is the only scholarship player left from the Rick Stansbury era at Mississippi State. (AP Photo/Jim Lytle)

By Logan Lowery

Daily Journal

STARKVILLE – Things have certainly changed a lot during Roquez Johnson’s three years at Mississippi State.

The junior forward is the lone remaining scholarship player to suit up for the Bulldogs under Rick Stansbury and has been a valuable component during Rick Ray’s two seasons.

“The last two years with Coach Ray are much different than when Stansbury was here,” Johnson said. “Things are more intense and you’ve got to lock in and be ready to play.”

Johnson appeared in 13 games as a true freshman in 2011-12 scoring one point and grabbing 11 rebounds. He and walk-on Tyson Cunningham are all that remains from Stansbury’s final roster which had lost eight returning underclassmen by the start of this year.

“I don’t know what caused those other guys to go and (Johnson) to stay,” Ray said. “But first and foremost, Quez is a tough kid. I think he’s always been in a situation where he’ll persevere through things and that’s what toughness is. Regardless of the situation or environment, you find a way to make that be successful for you. To me that says more about his toughness than anything else.”

The 6-foot-7, 210-pounder has flourished the last two seasons playing in 69 games and drawing 11 starts. Johnson is averaging 9.3 points and 4.6 rebounds per game over that span and is having his best year yet with 9.7 points and 4.7 boards this season.

“I’m just out there to provide a lot of energy,” Johnson said. “Coach Ray wants me to be that energy guy. Even going back to high school, I was the energy guy. I just carried that on into my college career.”

Carver connection

Johnson signed with MSU as a two-star prospect out of Carver High School in Montgomery, Ala., over offers from Missouri and Missouri State.

The Wolverines went 33-2 and were ranked No. 1 in Class 6A during his senior season where he averaged 16 points and 13.2 rebounds. Johnson credits his strong work habits that he developed in his prep program.

“There are a lot of players that come out of Carver and a lot of people don’t know that,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot of ball players there so you’ve just got to be on alert. We’re just hard workers. Down there you’ve got to grind.”

Johnson began a pipeline from Carver. Bulldogs sophomore guard Craig Sword is also a Carver product as is 2014 three-star forward signee Demetrius Houston. State also has a 2015 forward committed from Carver in Joseph Struggs.

“I kind of felt like I started all of that,” Johnson said. “Chicken (Sword) came from down there and we’ve got a couple more guys coming from down there. I feel good about that.”

logan.lowery@journalinc.com