INDIANAPOLIS – Just two weeks after hearing his named called as the 50th
overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, former Missouri State standout Alize Johnson
was decked out in Indiana Pacers' gear and headed to Las Vegas to make his pro debut in the NBA Summer League.
For Bears' fans, it came as little surprise that Johnson wasted no time in proving his critics wrong … again. Just as he did in high school, then at Frank Phillips College in Texas, and then again at Missouri State the last two seasons, the hard-working, hard-nosed forward hit the ground running in Las Vegas and made the Pacers' brass look like geniuses in drafting him.
"I love his energy," said Pacers' head coach Nate McMillan. "He attacks the glass. He's physical, and he's going to defend. I think he can defend four positions. He rebounds the ball very well. We're sold."
He finished the five-game Summer League stint averaging 12.4 points and a team-best 8.4 rebounds per game. He scored in double figures four times and just missed a fifth with a nine-point, 10-rebound game in the league finale against Brooklyn.
His best outing was a 16-point performance against Cleveland on July 9. He dropped in a key 3-pointer, threw down a dunk and finished with seven rebounds against a talented Cavaliers club that has since moved on to the tournament semifinals.
And just to prove that wasn't a fluke, he came back two days later in his first start with a double-double, scoring 12 points and snagging 14 rebounds against Atlanta.
"Playing for the Pacers in the NBA Summer League was a very valuable experience," the two-time All-MVC performer said. "I feel I did some good things, but I also know I have a lot to work on to be ready to play at this level. It was great to take the next step in my career and where I need to take myself to get better and better."
The Pacers went 2-3 in the Vegas event, but Johnson's scoring average ranked third on the club behind Indiana's first-round pick Aaron Holiday (14.5 points per game) and second-year pro T.J. Leaf (12.5 ppg), who both played more minutes per game. Johnson also made good on 43-percent (23-for-53) of his shots in the Summer League and dropped in 71.4 percent (15-of-21) of his free throws with eight steals and a pair of blocks.
ESPN's Mark Adams listed Johnson as one of the five best second-round surprises in the Summer League, playing up his defensive skill set he perfected during his days in Springfield.
On Monday (July 16), Johnson made it official by inking a pro contract with the Pacers and solidifying his future with the Pacers organization.