Halfway through the second half in their November matchup versus Wagner, Coppin State had enough of Mario Moody. Within the span of five, maybe six minutes, the super athletic 6’7” forward had thrown down several Earth shattering dunks that brought the sparse Baltimore crowd to its feet. Even though it didn’t seem possible, each successive Moody dunk was more spectacular than the last. When the smoke cleared, Wagner enjoyed a comfortable double-digit lead heading into the under-8 media timeout.
Right before that timeout, however, Moody tried to entertain the crowd one last time (as if the Sportscenter Top Ten worthy mid-court steal and tomahawk jam wasn’t enough). After receiving the ball eight feet from the basket, the junior swiftly lost his defender, took a couple of steps toward the rim, and attempted an improbable 360 degree jam. Moody had the height (obviously!), yet the ball clanged hard off the back rim, rendering his overly ambitious attempt unsuccessful. Despite the miss, the crowd still gasped in delight; after all, no one playing at a low mid-major program should possess the athleticism to garner such a mind-numbing attempt. Bashir Mason, on the other hand, didn’t seem terribly enthused by Moody’s showboating.
That was the last minute Moody played for the game, as the final eight minutes belonged mostly to Wagner’s reserves as they maintained an easy non-conference victory. When I asked Mason afterwards if Moody’s exit from the game had anything to do with his playground style dunk attempt, he vehemently denied my suggestion. Mason assured me that he wanted to give his reserves, guys like Greg Senat, Dwaun Anderson and Nolan Long, some minutes late. Moody’s energy, in fact, was actually welcomed by Mason.
Moody’s game changing athleticism always had bloggers like John and myself drooling over Wagner’s prospects of getting into the NCAA tournament. With rim-altering presences like Moody, Orlando Parker, and Big Apple Buckets Defensive Player of the Year Naofall Folahan defending the interior, we secretly wondered how anyone would score against this lineup. And in reality, no one really did score inside the arc. NEC opponents only made 46.1% of their two-point attempts, in part due to Wagner’s insane block rate of 18.4%.
Heading into his senior season, Moody was supposed to be Staten Island’s main man in the middle, at least that was the idea until Alex Kline released this bombshell of a tweet around noon today:
Wagner forward Mario Moody has received his release from the program, a source says.
— Alex Kline (@TheRecruitScoop) April 10, 2014
In addition to Moody, Wagner has now lost the services of Kenneth Ortiz, Latif Rivers, Orlando Parker and Folahan due to graduation, and it’s likely sharpshooter Jay Harris won’t return after being suspended late last season. (Kline later Tweeted that reserve Langston Burnett is also transferring.) All told, the Seahawks will have 23% of their returning possession minutes coming back for the 2014-15 season and they still have five empty scholarships to fill. Suffice it to say, this may be a deeper Wagner rebuild than anyone had ever envisioned.
But back to Moody. Despite the highlight reel dunks and nationally ranked rebound and block rates, the forward was, once again, somewhat inconsistent in his first season as an upperclassman. Even though he set a career low with 4.9 fouls committed per 40 minutes, Moody barely played more than half of Wagner’s available minutes. Why exactly was that the case? Well, Mason didn’t seem to trust him. In Wagner’s two NEC postseason games, Moody made all six of his field goal attempts and blocked five shots, and yet, the New Jersey native averaged a meager 13 minutes per game when the season was on the line. His lack of playing time didn’t seem to make sense from the outsider’s perspective.
Perhaps this is why the soon-to-be senior decided to find another program for his last season of eligibility. Then again, Moody posted an average at best 100.2 offensive rating and could only convert 47.7% of his 193 two-point shot attempts. He wasn’t dominating opponents on the offensive end, despite his physical gifts. Nor was he expected to given the offensive firepower around him, but his lack of consistency was rather puzzling.
It’s unknown if Moody will graduate from Wagner this semester, although it’s likely he’ll fall short as he finishes out his third year at the college. If that’s truly the case, Moody must sit out a season, as per NCAA transfer rules, in order to use up his final year of eligibility elsewhere. We may not realistically see Moody in a basketball uniform until the 2015-16 season rolls around.
Nevertheless, the forward has the rare opportunity to transfer up. Plenty of teams will be interested in his services, just as they were three offseasons ago when Dan Hurley plucked Moody away from interested programs like Temple, Florida Atlantic and Manhattan. Even if Moody’s new school must burn a scholarship for his transfer year, the athleticism and upside may be worth it.
For Bashir Mason, though, his third season coaching the green and white will be the most difficult year of his coaching career, especially with such little production returning. After barely missing out at a chance to play in the NEC tournament final for the past three seasons, it appears Wagner’s opportunity to go dancing has closed, at least for the time being. The rebuild is officially underway on Staten Island.
You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride