STARKVILLE — Mississippi State men”s basketball coach Rick Stansbury announced Monday guard Ravern Johnson has been suspended indefinitely.
The 6-foot-7 senior was suspended for MSU”s game Saturday at LSU following a rant critical of the coaching staff on the social network Twitter, which came less than an hour after the Bulldogs” loss at the University of Alabama. Stansbury banned his players from having Twitter accounts the next day.
Thursday was the last time Stansbury saw or heard from Johnson, who missed practice Thursday and Friday and didn”t travel with the team to Baton Rouge, La.
On Monday, Stansbury announced Johnson”s suspension for essentially going AWOL, but also for failing to meet the university”s academic attendance policy.
“We talked today (face to face),” said Stansbury, whose team is 12-10 and 4-4 in the Southeastern Conference. “After Thursday and Friday, he had no conversations with nobody, he just disappeared. I got no idea (where Johnson was). (He) wasn”t at practice.”
Johnson will practice, though Stansbury didn”t hint at how long his second-leading scorer will sit out games.
“He”ll make the decision if and when he ever plays,” Stansbury said. “Actions speak louder than words, so we”ll see. He seems to be very remorseful for things, but hey, there”s accountability if you don”t do things right.”
Johnson”s suspensions are concurrent with one another, meaning he won”t miss additional time for either issue. His suspension for missing too many classes is a coach”s decision.
Johnson missed MSU”s win against Alabama State on Dec. 14 for the same issue. Stansbury said he”d known of Johnson missing too many classes earlier in the semester but decided the Alabama State game — the last of four games in four days — would be the game he sat Johnson.
Johnson”s latest suspension is a continuation of the discipline received following the Alabama game. This is the third time he has been suspended in his MSU career. Johnson sat out MSU”s home loss to Kentucky last season for conduct detrimental to the team.
MSU point guard Dee Bost, Johnson”s roommate, said he”d “kinda” talked to Johnson but “not really” since Thursday.
“He”s been around all of us that hang together,” he said.
However, Bost didn”t say if he knew when Johnson would return.
Johnson”s exit from the lineup leaves a 17-point void Stansbury hopes the rest of the team can fill. Johnson had played back-to-back 40-minute games before his latest suspension, and had reached double-figure scoring in all but three games this season.
Freshman Jalen Steele started his first career game in place of Johnson at LSU and played 26 minutes. Steele had four points on 1-of-6 shooting and had three rebounds.
Stansbury said Steele would start his second straight game Wednesday against the University of Arkansas (14-8, 4-5 SEC). Steele”s start means senior Riley Benock will start his second straight game at small forward.
“We become a little more skilled (with Steele in lineup),” Stansbury said. “You lose the ability of a guy just to jump up and make shots, like Ray has the ability to do. But there”s some other things you don”t lose.”
Steele admitted the drama of his first season in Starkville has been “quite crazy” but hasn”t bothered him. He looks forward to his second-career start and the task of guarding guard Rotnei Clarke, who was the SEC Player of the Week following a 36-point outburst in a win at Vanderbilt.
“My mind-set (going into LSU) was I had to execute everything I did,” Steele said. “All the plays, defense, everything that the first team usually does. I have to come in and do the same thing and fill that spot.”