April 19, 2011 7:53:00 AM
The Mississippi State men''s basketball team dipped back into the G.W. Carver High School talent pool Monday and received a verbal commitment from shooting guard Craig Sword.
The 6-foot-3 junior is the first commitment of MSU''s 2012 class. He is the former teammate of 2011 signee Roquez Johnson, who signed with MSU on April 13 became the fourth member of next season''s group.
Sword played primarily at two-guard for Carver (Montgomery, Ala.), which went 26-2 and earned a berth in the Class 6A state semifinals last season.
Sword led Carver in scoring (23.2 points per game) and steals (4.4). He also averaged five assists and 5.2 rebounds per game.
Rivals.com rates Sword as a four-star recruit. He had written offers from Alabama, Auburn, and Georgia.
Sword''s high school coach, James Jackson, said MSU has been recruiting Sword for the past two years, and took notice of Johnson''s game as a result of multiple visits to watch Carver High games.
"They knew Craig had a little bit more to his game," Jackson said. "Roquez is high energy and just a machine on the court. Craig, on the other hand can just flat-out score. They''ve always talked about Craig, called me a bunch. (MSU coaches) saw him in AAU a bit. They were at a lot of our games and did a good job of staying around."
Sword''s commitment gives MSU a projected backcourt of him,
Jackson said Sword still plants to visit other schools, Jackson said. He said Sword can play point guard, but he''s at his best playing off the ball on the wing. He also lauds Sword''s ability to run the court and finish fast-break chances.
Jackson said Sword''s game improved dramatically between his sophomore and junior season as he developed a mid-range game. His biggest step forward came in the middle of last season, when he learned to adjust to double and triple teams.
"He''s got a fluid jumper, so he used to settle for a lot of threes," Jackson said. "Teams knew what we had down low with Roquez, but everyone was gearing up for him and he was getting a lot of charges because they would slide a guy right on him. We constantly stayed on him, and he would get frustrated seeing a lot of double and triple teams, box-and-1.
"We played a lot of good teams in Georgia, Mississippi and in Alabama, and you could see him learn when to turn it on and off. I can''t wait to see what he does next season."
Jackson describes Johnson and Sword, both of whom play for the same AAU team, as "two peas in a pod" and said he''s happy they will get the chance to play college ball together.