Coach Cunningham Talks About MSU Signees

Mississippi State assistant basketball coach Phil Cunningham talks about each of this year's basketball signees.

Shawn Long - (Morgan City HS) Morgan City, LA; 6-9, 225

"Shawn Long is 6-9/6-9.5, 225 and a really skilled big guy. He can shoot the three, really pass the ball well and has a very high basketball IQ. He has a ton of upside. But he's got to get physically stronger. It's not really what he is right now but what he can become down the line. He has a chance to be really good if he works hard.

"He reminds me a little bit of Jarvis Varnado because as a kid he learned how to play basketball as a guard, then he grew into the body he has right now. I think he was about 6-2 when he entered high school.

"Although there are few sleepers in basketball recruiting due to all the recruiting services, he is one of them. But he's different due to only playing one summer of AAU basketball. Last summer was his only summer to play. And he's tucked away in Morgan City, which is pretty deep down in Louisiana. Plus, he grew so much. He was 6-7 as a junior and grew to his current 6-9 to 6-9.5.

"It surprised us when we got down there and watched him work out a couple of times. We were really surprised how talented he was.

"Tulane had been locked in on him pretty hard and was trying to get him. And a lot of colleges came in late such as Tennessee, Oklahoma and other teams like that."

Roquez Johnson - (Carver Senior HS) Montgomery, AL; 6-7, 210

"Roquez is a very athletic kid. Like Shawn, we think his best days are ahead of him because he has to refine his game some more. But he's got a good body and a great frame that he will fill out. He's a guy who has been well coached. He's a big-time athlete who plays hard and comes from a program that wins. They went 28-2 this year and were defeated in the final four. They probably had the best team in the state but didn't quite win it.

"He has the potential to be good offensively and defensively. We believe he can be really good defensively."

Deville Smith - (Callaway Sr HS) Jackson, MS; 5-11, 165

"The first thing that jumps out at you about Deville is he is a winner. He won the state championship two years, his sophomore and junior years. He played for Wayne Brent who was an assistant coach at Ole Miss for a few years so he's been very well coached. He's small in height but he's very strong for his size. He's also physically tough. He's ready to play as a freshman because he's physically and mentally tough. He understands defense, understands playing hard, understands accountability.

"He really changed his game about a year ago when he became more of a distributor. He's always been a scorer but then he became a distributor. He and Rodney Hood had tremendous chemistry last summer playing together on the AAU circuit (for MBA Hoops). Deville help get him shots all day long."

Rodney Hood - (Meridian HS) Meridian, MS; 6-7, 185

"Rodney has a great background. His mom and dad played here. His versatility is the thing that jumps out about him. He can play three different positions - one, two or three. He's athletic and can shoot it, can put it on the floor and drive, can pass it, and has a really high basketball IQ. He just knows how to play the game. And he's ready to play due to having such versatility and athleticism. I've been here 11 years and we haven't had a wing like him, one that is that long and athletic and can score so many different ways."

David Gardner - (Okolona HS) Okolona, MS; 6-6, 205

"David is a tremendous shooter, but he does much more than shoot the ball. He has the reputation as a shooter but he can do much more than that. I've said this about all these guys but he's another one with a really high basketball IQ.

"When we went to watch him this fall with his high school team they didn't have a point guard, so he was playing the point. And he could really see the floor and find the open man as good as any point guard out there.

"What he has to do, though, is get physically stronger. And this will be his first time in a real competitive environment day after day after day. When you are at a small school you don't get that competitive environment on a day to day basis at practice. Sometimes that is a big adjustment. But if he can make that adjustment then he will be able to play this year."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the sports network. You can contact him by emailing

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