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Alize Johnson withdraws from NBA Draft; will return to Missouri State

Could the Bears be the new Valley favorite?

Chris Parker (Ozarks Sports Zone)

Missouri State forward Alize Johnson has decided to withdraw from the NBA Draft and return to school for his senior season, the junior has confirmed to Mid-Major Madness.

Johnson's decision means that Missouri State will be a favorite to win the new-look Missouri Valley, potentially earning the program's first NCAA Tournament bid since 1999.

After flirting with the draft process, but opting to forgo the loaded 2017 draft, Johnson will be one of the nation's top hybrid 4s in 2017-18.

His five 20-point, 15-rebound games were best among from non-Power 5 players last season, and his 17 double-doubles led the Missouri Valley. Johnson, along with Valparaiso star and potential draft pick Alec Peters are the only players in the county to average a double-double and knock down 40 threes.

Johnson matched Peters -- who is currently ranked No. 45 on Chad Ford's big board -- stride for stride in their regular season meeting, finishing with 21 points, 11 rebounds and three assists in an 84-81 loss.

His game and activity have drawn comparisons to other undersized stretch-4s like Draymond Green and current NBA draft prospects Cameron Oliver and Nigel Hayes.

Johnson worked out for the Celtics on May 15 and had contact with several other NBA franchises before making the decision to withdraw. He's spent much of this Spring continuing to expand his perimeter game by adding extra workouts with NBA skills trainer and The Basketball Movement found and director Rob Yanders.

This continues a run of good news for Bears head coach Paul Lusk, whose seat has heated up following a 41-55 run in the last three seasons. His overall record stands at just 88-106 in his six seasons in Springfield.

Junior guard Ronnie Rousseau announced that he would also return to Springfield after leaving the program in January for personal reasons. The 5-11 guard was a key contributor in the Bears’ 10-4 start, averaging 11.6 points and shooting 40 percent from three.

Lusk also sealed the deal with Howard graduate transfer J.T. Miller in late April. Miller gives the Bears an explosive wing scorer who can go get a bucket seemingly on command. He averaged 14.7 points in his final season at Howard, including a 30-point explosion against Georgetown.

The development of 6-8 sophomore Obadiah Church could decide the Bears’ trajectory.

Church led The Valley in blocks this season (74) and his 124 blocks over the last two seasons ranks among the top 10 nationally for projected returners. His ability to finish and protect the rim, with the talent around him, could allow him to flourish.

The defection of Wichita State — which has won four straight MVC regular season or tournament titles -- has given everyone in the The Valley new life. With Johnson coming back, the Bears seem ready to take advantage.