Millions of viewers worldwide Thursday night saw Moses Moody become Arkansas’ first one-and-done NBA draft pick.
UA Coach Eric Musselman is hoping young basketball recruits were paying particular attention in hopes they will follow in Moody’s footsteps in Fayetteville and be a part of his blueprint of reinvigorating the Hogs hoops program.
After advancing to the Elite Eight and breaking a 25-year Sweet 16 drought, it was more rarified air for the Hogs at the Barclay’s Center in New York Thursday night. Golden State grabbing Moody with the 14th pick made the Little Rock native the first Hogs lottery pick since the Utah Jazz picked former star Ronnie Brewer with the 14th pick in 2006.
“He was such a good teammate for us,” Musselman told the media after a watch party at his home Thursday night. “To think that a freshman would lead us in scoring and be one of our most unselfish players and to watch his growth throughout the year that he was with us, I think every Razorback fan should be proud of Moses.
“Anybody after a freshman year that becomes a lottery pick is really, really, really special. It’s hard to do.”
Moody came to Arkansas in Musselman’s much-ballyhooed first recruiting class which included coveted instate stars Moody, Davonte Davis, Jaylin Williams and Khalen “K.K.” Robinson.
Moody was rated the No. 37 high school player in the nation by 247Sports, No. 41 by ESPN and No. 53 by Rivals after leading North Little Rock to a Class 7A State Championship as a sophomore and finishing his prep career at Montverde (Fla.) Academy.
He may have surprised some experts by averaging 16.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists for the Hogs during a historic tournament run.
“Moses made an incredible jump from where he was rated at the end of his high school [career], and he did that through incredible hard work,” Musselman said. “I think it’s a great statement for everybody — from a national standpoint, from an instate standpoint.”
And the humble Musselman won’t take the credit, but he and his staff had a hand in this, too. Musselman, a former NBA coach, runs his program like an NBA franchise. Moody knew what he needed to do to unlock his NBA potential and got on the fast track to collegiate stardom because Musselman and his staff helped put him in a good position. Like Musselman said, it was Moody who did the work, but the coaches saw what the 6-foot-6 Moody needed to work on last summer to make him competitive in the SEC and beyond, and it worked.
The development is just one thing that has been missing from the Hogs program for a long time. Can you imagine if Musselman coached Bobby Portis and Daniel Gafford? The two elite instate players Mike Anderson was able to land, and neither probably realized their NBA draft potential because they weren’t as prepared for the NBA game like Moody.
“Immediately when he steps into their locker room, the veterans are going to respect him because of how he works and his approach to the game,” Musselman said. “How he watches film, the way he pre-practice shoots.”
The fantastic news for Hogs fans is there are players that are even better than Moody was in high school within the state’s borders that are considering a move to the Hill. It’s a sure bet all of those players were paying close attention to Moody and the others’ development this season and the events that unfolded Thursday night.
Moody walking across the stage was a better recruiting tool for Musselman than hanging with eventual national champion Baylor in the Elite Eight game.
As for Moody’s situation — it’s a great one. He can learn from veteran Warrior stars Steph Curry and Klay Thompson as well as Draymond Green and be a factor in the Western Conference immediately. With Curry and a healthy Thompson, the Warriors will contend. Not to mention, Steve Kerr is an elite coach. Moody dropped further than most pundits predicted, but for him, it really was for the best. The fact that he won’t be part of a massive rebuilding effort and will learn from one of the great NBA players of all-time will only help him develop his professional game just like he was able to become a star college player in just one season.
“He’s now entered a business world, and he’s well mature beyond his age, and we saw it on a daily basis and now Golden State is going to see it,” Musselman said. “He’s a guy that understands offensive spacing. Golden State, the way they play, their philosophical Xs and Os are about spacing, sharing the ball, passing up a good shot for a great shot, and that’s what’s in Moses’ DNA.
“Is he better off where he is or two picks ahead? He’s better off where he is with that organization and playing in that style. I really believe that’s a perfect fit.”
In just two seasons, Musselman is making history at Arkansas and making Hogs basketball relevant again. Thursday night was just another one of those accomplishments and a hint of things to come.