Mississippi State head coach Rick Ray announced the signing of Jones County Junior College big man Johnny Zuppardo Wednesday.
The 6-foot-9, 235-pound Kiln native chose the Bulldogs over Washington, Wichita State and Tulane.
Zuppardo led the Bobcats to a 28-5 record and a NJCAA national championship this past season. He averaged 15.2 points and 6.9 rebounds in his only season with the Bobcats.
He shot 62.7 percent from the floor and was 43.1 percent from behind the 3-point line. He went 80-for-105 from the free throw line. On the defensive end of the floor, Zuppardo collected 32 steals and blocked 25 shots.
He was selected to the NJCAA All-Tournament and Region 23 All-Tournament teams. He garnered All-MACJC South Division first-team horns. Zuppardo will also play in the NJCAA All-Star Game in Las Vegas later this month.
“I am excited about Johnny deciding to join our basketball program,” Ray said in a school release. “His shooting percentages are off the chart. We needed a shooter in our program, but we got even more. We got a shooter that is a legitimate big who possesses a back-to-the-basket game and is tough. But more importantly, he is a proven winner. With the addition of Johnny, for the first time in my career here, we have an SEC front line that features size, length, strength, and what we sorely needed, depth.”
Zuppardo will join a set of big men that has lacked depth in Ray’s first two seasons. Along with returners Gavin Ware and Roquez Johnson, the Bulldogs will have redshirts Fallou Ndoye and Travis Daniels, along with newcomers Oliver Black, Demetrius Houston and Zuppardo.
Zuppardo played high school basketball at St. Stanislaus. Upon graduation, he signed with Arkansas State. He played one year for the Red Wolves, averaging 1.3 points and one rebound.
He then transferred to Southern Mississippi, where he sat out an entire season. After that he transferred to Jones.
“I think Mississippi State is getting a real steal,” Zuppardo’s coach in high school and at Jones Jay Ladner said, who go the head coaching job at Southeastern Louisiana last week. “He’s a pleasure to coach, and he gives you everything you want from an athlete. He’s a 6-9 player that can handle the ball and step out and shoot the three. And he’s skilled enough that he can score with his back to the basket. He’s going to be a tough matchup problem for opposing bigs. I’m just tickled to death a Mississippi boy is staying at home.
“He really grew up at the short time he was at Jones. He became a leader on and off the court and let other guys know what it took to get to Division I. He really blossomed and matured into a great young man. I’ve been fortunate enough to be around him for a long, long time, and I realized in junior high he had a chance to earn a college scholarship.”