February 19, 2013 3:06:43 AM
Matthew Stevens - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE - Roquez Johnson has become the fifth different player to be suspended or dismissed by Mississippi State University men's basketball coach Rick Ray since the summer preseason.
In his weekly meeting with reporters Monday afternoon, Ray announced at Humphrey Coliseum the sophomore forward Roquez Johnson has been suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules.
The suspension is effective immediately, and Johnson won't make the trip to Tuscaloosa, Ala., for the Bulldogs' game against the University of Alabama on Wednesday (7 p.m., SEC Network).
"Our problem is just a void of leadership," Ray said. " I think what it is is guys trying to get used to my expectations for them off the court. We all know what their expectations are on the court but it's them trying to figure out what they can get away with. It's a bit of that situation happening with the older guys and the answer is -- nothing."
Johnson has appeared in 23 games this season, starting in eight. He missed the season opener at Troy due to a concussion. On the year, he's averaging 8.8 points and 4.5 rebounds. The 6-foot-7 forward was leading the team in scoring for the first month of the season after getting double figures in seven of the first eight games of the 2012-13 season.
With the status of previous suspension of junior guard Jalen Steele still "yet to be determined" according to Ray, the Bulldogs (7-17, 2-10 in Southeastern Conference) have only five guaranteed scholarship players and seven players total heading to Alabama Wednesday night.
MSU will have only freshman Gavin Ware and Borchert as active frontcourt players against the Crimson Tide (17-8, 9-3) Wednesday.
"We're going to play Tyson (Cunningham) and Craig (Sword) at that power forward spot some and do some things as far as switching some ball-screen action and those guys fronting the post," Ray said. "For us, we also have to figure out a way, too, to make this a benefit for us offensively. If it's any sort of detriment on the defensive end, the other team has to guard us, too."
Johnson joins guard Shaun Smith, forward Kristers Zeidaks, East Mississippi Community transfer forward Colin Borchert and Steele as players disciplined by Ray either before or during his first season as a Division 1 college basketball head coach.
"The suspensions have nothing to do with coaching style," Ray said. "Coaching style has to do with on the court. I think guys pretty much know and there hasn't been any problems as far back talking and all of that. Our problem is just a void of leadership and I think our young kids, they haven't had any backlash right now."
With Steele being suspended for the last three games and senior forward Wendell Lewis being injured with a fractured right patella on Dec. 14, Ray confessed to having been without leadership among their active roster that currently sits at the school's worst losing streak since 1982.
"The suspensions have nothing to do with coaching style (because) coaching style has to do with on the court," Ray said. "I think guys pretty much know me and there hasn't been any problems as far back talking and all of that. Our problem is just a void of leadership and I think our young kids, they haven't had any backlash right now."
Ray said he hasn't experienced any possible active roster members leaving the program following this season due to his public disciplining of players this season.
"That hasn't come up at all yet," Ray said. "I don't expect it to come up. My expectations are those guys want to be a part of the program. If they don't want to be a part of the program, they haven't said that to me."