Below, an interview and workout video of draft hopeful Raven Johnson, a wing player out of Mississippi State who has worked out with the Wizards, and then, his story…
Athletes and politicians represent the two foremost groups that must be weary of the ills of Twitter. Maybe politicians have more to lose in terms of social standing, but the millions Gilbert Arenas ultimately lost due to his 50-game suspension in 2010 by David Stern is nothing to scoff at. It may have been Finger Gunz in Philly which made the final decision possible, but Arenas’ Twitter escapades surrounding his gun incident helped make a strong case for Stern.
In the furor of 24-hour news cycle overreaction to initial misreporting of the December 2009 situation between Arenas and Javaris Crittenton, Rev. Al Sharpton implored Stern to punish with a heavy hand. Before his suspension (which was initially deemed “indefinite”), and before his original @GilbertArenas Twitter account became non-existent, some of Arenas’ last tweets took to criticizing the reverend of inane public profiling. In the present day, however, Arenas continues to get fined by the NBA for tweets deemed inappropriate (for language), which have also been scrutinized because of their misogynistic nature. Future athletes and politicians will surely continue in this out-of-bounds manner on many occasion.
Mississippi State’s Ravern Johnson, a four-year senior who worked out for the Washington Wizards on June 2, also has first-hand knowledge of Twitter’s tribulations on the college level, albeit much more trivial in comparison to Arenas. In early February 2010, one of Johnson’s tweets, seemingly expressing frustration about a tough season, was deemed “inappropriate” by his university. He was also suspended indefinitely, at first. Johnson’s tweets were not utterly flagrant (they are quoted below), but seeing as the failed system of college athletics serves more as a money-making venture for institutions than it does to serve the athletes and the sport, it makes total sense that many coaches hold a desperate grasp on their ability to be disciplinarians. Not to say the college landscape isn’t chock full of good stories and genuine benefits, there’s just an obscene imbalance. And not to digress too much into a legit area that’s beside the point, because in this case, the punishment remained just. Being dumb enough to Tweet something likely to be viewed as dumb is no excuse.
Johnson’s Tweets (via Clarion-Ledger.com):
“Starting to see why people Transfer. You can play the minutes but not getting your talents shown because u watching someone else wit the ball the whole game.”
“Funny to see what all our so called #Fan Really think good to know”
Blessed be those actually in search of that #Fan hashtag. Nonetheless, Johnson’s suspension only amounted to two missed conference games, and it was revealed that skipping class also led to his punishment, but the chirping noise had been made. After the incident, Johnson’s coach, Rick Stansbury, banned the rest of his team from using Twitter. The incident was covered by several national outlets, and on top Johnson’s teammates, Renardo Sidney and Elgin Bailey, getting into a well-disseminated fight with each other on national television while in the stands during a December tournament in Hawaii, the season spelled disaster for Stansbury’s Bulldogs. Many questioned if the coach could control the array of talented, but risky characters he recruited to Starkville, two of which, including the aforementioned Sidney and starting point guard Dee Bost, missed a significant chunk of games at the beginning of the season due to amateur status eligibility issues.
The Bulldogs did find late-season momentum, for a fairly well-touted pre-season team that most forgot when it counted, earning them a bye in first round of the 2011 SEC Tournament. In the process, however, they set off divisional abolitionists, finishing with a 17-13 record overall and going 9-7 in conference play. Not coincidentally, Stansbury, as reported by ESPN.com’s Andy Katz, was recently the only one of 12 SEC head basketball coaches who voted against doing away with the two division format for conference basketball. The change will be made in the SEC for the 2012-13 season.
Johnson came off the bench for the first four games after his two-game suspension. The Bulldogs lost three of those four, first to Auburn and Kentucky on the road, then a home victory over Ole Miss, followed by a home loss to a poor LSU team. With Johnson back in the starting lineup, Mississippi State then won their last three regular season conference games, at Tennessee, at Arkansas and versus South Carolina, before losing to Vanderbilt in the first round of the SEC Tournament.
Johnson ended his season on a high note. In those last four starts, playing a shade under 37 minutes per game, he averaged 21 points on .508 shooting from the field, and made 4.4 three pointers per game at a .514 percentage. His hot shooting resulted in an effective field-goal percentage of .661 (eFG% accounts for the fact that threes are worth one more point than a regular field-goal). Pretty impressive. In four years at Duke, JJ Redick had an eFG% of .553. Full disclosure states that Johnson had an eFG% of .539 as a senior, but .598 as a junior. His career .559 eFG% tops Redick’s nonetheless. Johnson’s career 260 made three-point field goals stands as second most in Bulldog history after Barry Stewart’s 280.
Johnson’s wingspan measures 6’8.5”, according to the Draft Express measurements database, the same length as Wes Matthews of the Portland Trailblazers, but Johnson measures in height at 6’5.25” without shoes (6’7” with shoes). Matthews, who finished tied for 7th in NBA three-pointers made last season (154 on .407 shooting), stands at an even 6’4” without shoes. Problem is, Johnson weighs in at a paltry 170 lbs., same as much shorter point guards Rafer Alston and Devin Harris when they were measured pre-draft back in 1998 and 2004 respectively.
The other issue with Johnson is that he brings little else to the table statistically. Even in those last four games of motivated numbers, he only averaged 1.25 assists and 0.5 steals to go with a decent 4.5 rebounds. Sure, his role wasn’t that of a creator, but the telling catch is his 1.5 free-throw attempted per game, which is on par with his career average of 1.6 (making them at a .750 percentage). Although, over his entire senior season, Johnson did get to the line 3.9 times per game (making .780 of them).
As the 2007 Gatorade Mississippi High School Player of the Year, Johnson keeps good company with other winners of his decade: Mo Williams (2001), Travis Outlaw (2003), and Al Jefferson (2004). Journalist scouts continue to see promise in him as he enters the 2011 draft.
Chad Ford, ESPN.com – May 13, 2011:
I don’t want to fail to mention players like Ravern Johnson, Xavier Silas, Mark Payne, Gilbert Brown, Derwin Kitchen, DeAngelo Casto, Tai Wesley and Kevin Galloway, all of whom I saw the past two days. Many of them are legitimate second-round prospects and point to the depth of this draft. The draft may be a bit weak at the top, but there is a lot of talent in the second round. Of this group, Johnson stood out. He really shot the ball well and is a very good athlete. He needs to add a lot of muscle, but he was very good in both 5-on-5 and 3-on-3 play.
Joseph Treutlein, Draft Express – April 17, 2011:
One of the best pure shooters in this year’s draft class, Ravern Johnson had a solid showing at the Portsmouth Invitational, averaging 16.7 points per game on 40% three-point shooting (8-for-20) and 51% overall. A fairly cut and dry prospect from an NBA perspective, Johnson does one thing extremely well and doesn’t consistently contribute much elsewhere, as evidenced by his shallow stat line as a senior. Possessing superb shooting mechanics with a high release and incredibly quick release speed, Johnson is a threat to put the ball in the basket whenever the ball is in his hands.
Johnson didn’t shy away from the fact that he needs to gain weight and prove that he can finish at the rim when I asked him, after his workout with the Wizards, what he’s trying to put on display for NBA teams.
“Right now, I’m just trying to show teams that I may be a skinny guy, but I can still do anything anybody else can do,” he said, while admitting that gaining weight is a priority. Johnson said he has added seven pounds since the end of his college career.
He has been training at Joe Abunassar’s Impact Basketball gym in Las Vegas, Nevada. Impact has a high-level list of NBA clients on its resume, recent relevant notables include John Wall and Trevor Booker of the Wizards, along with Johnson’s former teammate and NCAA all-time leader in blocks, Jarvis Varnado. For the upcoming draft, Impact’s list of trainees includes Kawhi Leonard (San Diego State), Alec Burks (Colorado), Jordan Williams (Maryland), and Josh Selby (Kansas), according to Draft Express.
Johnson is represented by Michael Whitaker, who also serves as the agent for George Hill of the San Antonio Spurs and Jermaine Taylor of the Sacramento Kings (the Wizards’ 32nd pick in 2009 who was immediately jettisoned to the Houston Rockets in exchange for a bag of cash).
Regarding those Wizards, they need support at the wing position and they desperately need shooters, especially ones like Johnson who can catch and release quick long bombs off of John Wall’s creation. But at what cost? Washington also needs defensive toughness from all positions sooner rather than later, and Johnson’s frame might not allow for that, at least not for a couple years.
If, under a new collective bargaining agreement, players assigned to the NBA’s Development League do not count against the roster maximum (the way it should be), then Johnson might be a prime candidate to grab and stash on the affiliate Dakota Wizards so he can mature with significant minutes against physical and hungry talent. As it stands, Washington’s third pick in the draft at 34 (after picks 6 and 18), might be too high to select Johnson, at least according those trying to mock a crap-shoot.
When I asked how he learned and matured from his Twitter incident and other issues throughout his senior year, Johnson rested his laurels on sensible talk that hints of good public relations management.
“You know you made a mistake,” he said. “You just got to keep your head level, don’t show that you’re going to quit or anything. Just come back, play hard and be a good teammate to everybody.”
And what else can one do? Meanwhile, the Twitter debate rages on at the college level, where in SEC country your local sports column might begin with something like this:
Elaine Fox isn’t exactly up to speed on social media. “My mom is 75 years old and she called me and said, ‘What is Twitter?’ ” Georgia men’s basketball coach Mark Fox said.
Marc Weiszer’s oft-used ‘old person doesn’t get new thing’ opener in his Athens Banner-Herald article (although I’m sure Mark Fox should share some of blame), goes on to explain that several SEC coaches allow their players to tweet. Stansbury, however, says he will maintain his in-season ban, using doing so to aid buttoning the hatches on the ship he has been implored by university officials to better command.
“It just lets the world into your locker room and we have enough problems as it is keeping your locker room the way it used to be,” Stansbury said at the 2011 SEC spring meetings, according to Weiszer’s article.
As for Johnson, he has more to worry about than potentially being deemed inappropriate on a social networking tool. He’s got weight to gain, defensive skills to prove, and most importantly, shots to knock down. In addition to the Wizards, he has had workouts with the Phoenix Suns, New Jersey Nets, Boston Celtics and Memphis Grizzlies. But none of this will keep Johnson from finding his way back to tweet communiqué.
“I’m actually back on Twitter, but I’m watching what I say now.” And if you want to find out, it seems you can follow him at @Ray_J2. Looks like he’s already making high-profile connections.