Rick Ray was looking for a point guard who can lead his team both offensively and defensively. Basically, he wanted a coach on the court. If you listen to Parkview High School head coach Al Flanigan, then I think you would agree that he found his man in I.J. Ready.
"I call him the Little General," said Flanigan. "He has a good I.Q. for basketball. He knows as much about our offense and defense as I do. I turn him loose and let him lead. He takes a lot of pressure off of me."
Flanigan feels Ready is another in a long line of great point guards who have played at Parkview High School.
"This is Point Guard U here," he said. "We have always had good point guards, going back to (current Mississippi State assistant basketball coach) Wes (Flanigan) who was Player of the Year. We've had three Players of the Year here. And if they don't try to give it to a Razorback this year, he'll be that, too."
Ready takes great pride in his point guard ability.
"I guess I am a natural born point guard," said Ready, who is averaging over 20 points, 6 assists and 5 steals per game this season. "I try to keep the team under control and make sure everybody gets good shots. I've always been pass-first. In practice, if I get the rebound I look up and make the right pass and get it to them so they can get an easy bucket."
He's not just a pass-first point guard, though. He's also a very complete offensive threat, a player who can drive to the basket, take a mid-range shot or shoot a three.
"He can really shoot the ball," said Flanigan. "He's not just an assist man because he can really shoot the ball. What he does is get everybody involved. And if it's not working, then he'll take over. I think Coach Ray is going to love that."
Flanigan saw early on how good Ready was going to be.
"I could tell he was going to be like that," he said. "Then, coming in here as a 10th grader he just blossomed. And he's gotten better every year."
While he's an excellent point guard on the offensive end, he may be even better defensively.
"I love playing defense and Coach Flanigan teaches defense, day-in, day-out," said Ready. "He really stresses it."
Ready gives 100% effort all the time and rarely comes out of a game. You would think it would wear him down but his work ethic takes care of that.
"I have a motor and I run and work out every day," said Ready. "If I'm not doing something in the morning, then I'm doing stuff during practice and late at night like 11 to midnight. I do things like conditioning, ball-handling and shooting. Basically, I'm conditioning all day. That helps me with my motor and will help me go play SEC basketball."
Speaking of SEC play, he believes his style of play will suit Mississippi State perfectly.
"They play my style (at Mississippi State)," said Ready. "They play man-to-man, full court and fast paced."
Which is exactly what Rick Ray was looking for.
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.