Pacers add Alize Johnson in the second round at No. 50

Missouri State, Alize Johnson, Pacers, 2018 NBA Draft

Kevin Pritchard continues to seek toughness. He’s focused on adding guys with grit, with fight, and he wants a roster full of players who will bring it all year round.

Late in the second round with several notable names already off the board, including Ohio State’s Keita Bates-Diop just two spots earlier, the Pacers used the 50th overall pick to add Missouri State forward Alize Johnson to their roster.

The addition of Johnson, along with UCLA point guard Aaron Holiday at 23, completed the Pacers’ draft night.

Alize — pronounced AL-luh-zay — is a 6-foot-8, 216-pound forward who has a knack for the basketball. As the only Missouri Valley Conference player drafted, and just the first Bears player drafted since 1987 (Winston Garland), Johnson finished fifth in the nation in rebounding.

“Alize is a bulldog,” Pacers President Kevin Pritchard said after making the pick Thursday night.

“We’ve known about him for a couple years. He’s a guy that if you said ‘Go eat some glass and we’re going to win the game.’ He’d say, ‘Well do you want salt or pepper?’ With that position, I wanted to have a guy that Nate could throw out into a game and go guard somebody in February. That just says, ‘I don’t care about anything. Just put me on the floor in February, when everybody is tired and I’m going to do something.'”

The Williamsport, Pa. native was just 5-foot-9 in high school so he was a point guard. And then he grew 12 inches. Johnson spent two years at Frank Phillips College in Borger, Texas, and then transferred to Missouri State for the past two seasons. He was an impact player, named Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the Year for the 2016-17 season.

He is a relentless forward, diving after loose balls and laying his body on the line. He’s also a guy who can be counted on to bring it, whether it’s a scrimmage or postseason tournament game.

Johnson led the Bears in three departments: scoring (15.0 ppg), rebounding (11.6 rpg) and assists (2.8 apg). He shot 43 percent (172 of 400) from the field and 75.9 percent at the line (110 for 145).

“The ball goes up and there’s some guys that are always around the ball,” Pritchard continued. “You’ll see it at the very first practice, you’ll see it in summer league. You could ask him to do anything, and secondly I think he just has this amazing ability to find rebounds out of his position.

“He’s got to develop a (shot), he’s got a little mechanic issue, but he lives in the gym and he’s hungry.”

Johnson most likely will spend the majority of the season with the Pacers’ G League team in Fort Wayne.

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