Thursday, May 23, 2024

Mott Community College point guard Johnson commits to Izzo, bulks up class

November 26, 2001

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Mott Community College basketball star Rashi Johnson said he knew staying close to home was an important factor if he decided to transfer.

That’s why the 6-foot-2 guard from Chicago picked MSU as his new home.

“What really influenced my decision was the proximity, it’s a drive,” Johnson said. “After Sept. 11, I really took that into consideration.”

Johnson - who signed last Wednesday - chose MSU over Southern Cal and Cincinnati to become the fourth member of MSU men’s basketball head coach Tom Izzo’s 2002 recruiting class.

Forwards Paul Davis and Delco Rowley and guard Maurice Ager signed with the Spartans earlier this month.

Unlike the rest of his recruiting class, Johnson has college playing experience0 under the coaching tutelage of Lansing native Steve Schmidt.

Schmidt said Johnson’s initial plan was to play out the season and decide to sign with a team in the spring.

But after the excellent effort the MSU coaching staff put forth in landing Johnson, his blueprint changed.

“Michigan State, to their credit, did a tremendous job,” Schmidt said.

“They changed our plan. They did a thorough job in the recruiting process. We decided this would be the best avenue - the recruiting process can become a distraction.”

And with distractions aside, Johnson can focus on helping his No. 3-ranked Bears (in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II poll) win a title.

And Schmidt said he plans on grooming his combo guard into a true point guard.

“That is something I’ve decided to do with Rashi (this season),” Schmidt said. “He lacks experience as a pure point guard.”

Right now, MSU is most interested in Johnson’s defensive prowess, something both the player and his coach credit as his biggest strength.

“He’s solid all around,” Schmidt said. “He’s a tremendous defensive player. Defense is probably his strength. He’s a good fit for MSU. His defense impressed them early.”

Last summer, Johnson played with current and former Spartan basketball players in annual summer pickup games.

During these sessions, Johnson talked with current players about their experiences at MSU.

Sophomore point guard Marcus Taylor “had said some things to me,” Johnson said. “He’s comfortable being there.”

Mott is 7-1, with Johnson averaging 17 points, five assists and a nation-leading 5.5 steals per game. The guard said he looks forward to honing his skills throughout the season and preparing himself to play Spartan basketball.

“I like to play that style of basketball,” Johnson said of MSU’s fast-break game.

“I’m learning a lot this season as I go along as far as making decisions on the court (as a point guard).”

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