Morehead State point guard Xavier Moon recently joined some elite company when he recorded his first career triple-double against Central Arkansas on December 19.
Moon recorded 25 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds during that game and is one of 23 players in the country this season to have recorded a triple-double. He joined the likes of Elfrid Payton, Kris Dunn, Denzel Valentine and Dennis Smith Jr. to tally at least 25 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds in a game since 2010.
“I didn’t know that,” Moon told Basketball Insiders. “I’m at a loss for words. Just knowing Elfrid Payton is with the Magic. Denzel Valentine is with the Bulls. Just being on that list, I’m honored myself.”
It’s that sort of production that the senior brought to his team each night this season. He was the leader on the court and the Eagles seemingly always had a chance to win when he was firing on all cylinders. Moon averaged 16 points, 4.6 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game this season for Morehead State and was named to the All-Ohio Valley Conference First Team.
Moon’s college career came to an end on Thursday following the Eagles’ 75-69 loss to Murray State in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament. They entered the tournament as the third seed after posting a 10-6 record in conference play. Moon recorded 16 points, six assists, four rebounds and two steals in that game.
Moon led his team in points, assists, steals and three-pointers made this season. He finished eighth in the Ohio Valley Conference in scoring, fifth in assists, second in assist-to-turnover ratio and eighth in three-point percentage. His triple-double was the first in school history and the 15th in conference history.
“After I got the triple-double, and I looked at the stats, we won by a good margin,” Moon said. “I was thinking if I bring this every night with everything else our team brings then we can really win. That night I was chasing every rebound, I’m hitting the open guys and I was also scoring. I wasn’t really focused on myself but at some point, you have to say, ‘Okay, now it’s time for me to do what I need to do to help us win.’ If doing that will help us win, I’m trying to do that every night.”
Moon grew up in a bit of a different situation than most players. He watched as his uncle, Jamario Moon, made a name for himself in the NBA. He had stints with the Toronto Raptors, Miami HEAT, Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Clippers and Charlotte Bobcats. He averaged 6.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in 286 career games.
Jamario Moon is the ultimate example for young players that have dreams of playing in the NBA. Although he went undrafted in 2001, he eventually made his NBA debut in 2007. After college, he bounced around between the NBA D-League, ABA, World Basketball Association, Continental Basketball Association and the International Basketball League before eventually catching the eye of the Raptors in a free agent mini-camp.
Xavier Moon looks to his uncle for advice and guidance on his journey to becoming a professional basketball player. The two talk every day and will often dissect how Xavier played in a specific game or what he needs to do differently in certain situations. They talk about more than basketball as well, including topics like school and life in general.
“He was huge for me growing up,” Xavier Moon said. “Watching him, being around him all of the time [and] talking to him. With him being in the league, he gave me a lot of insight into what it’s all about – how hard you got to work and what you got to bring to the table day in and day out. He just tried to make sure that I stayed on top of what I need to do so I can be the player I am today.”
Having been around virtually every level of professional basketball, Jamario Moon is a great mentor for Xavier as he prepares for the next level. With as many connections as Jamario has from his playing days, Xavier figures to be set up well in the coming weeks as he prepares for the NBA pre-draft process. While Jamario has been instrumental to Xavier off of the court, the two haven’t shied away from facing off against each other on the court.
“We are two totally different players,” Xavier Moon said. “He’s a small forward. He shoots it but I shoot it way better than he does. He’s more of an above-the-rim type of guy. I can be above the rim but I prefer finesse or contact.
“Lately, he’s been a little tough on me because he started playing more of the NBA-style defense; not letting me get my shots off. I’ve been trying to work on that. He’s been telling me in the NBA, it’s all about getting spacing.”
Moon’s final year in college proved to be quite a season. Although the team finished with a 14-16 overall record, it doesn’t paint the full picture of the season. Head coach Sean Woods resigned from his position in December after two players said in a court affidavit that they had altercations with him in the locker room.
One player said Woods backhanded him in the chest while the other player said Woods shoved him once during a timeout and again after a game at Evansville on November 19. Woods was suspended by the university three days after that game and was later charged with misdemeanor battery.
Following his resignation, the Eagles dropped their next six games and fell to 2-8 on the season. The team was adjusting to a new system under interim head coach Preston Spradlin and still recovering from the fallout of the prior altercations. A win against Central Arkansas turned the season around as they went 11-4 in their next 15 games.
“Man, it hit hard,” Moon said. “It took us a pretty good amount of time to actually adjust to the whole coaching situation. Getting used to the new coach, the new offense, defense. We went through a little span where we weren’t even winning any games. It gets to the point where you just start to question yourselves and question the coach. Like, is this really even working? We’re doing everything you say but we’re still not winning. We just had to grit it out and just trust the process. We just took it one day at a time. That’s all we can do from that point.”
Now that the season is over, Moon will turn his attention to preparing for the NBA draft. He’ll spend the majority of his free time working out and improving his game as much as he can. Fortunately for him, he has his uncle on his side and can learn from someone who made a name for himself in the NBA.
As Jamario Moon showed, hard work and determination goes a long way in making it to the NBA. Xavier Moon would like to follow in his footsteps, but with perhaps fewer detours along the way.
Report: NCAA Announce New College Basketball Policies
The NCAA adopted a sweeping series of policy and rules changes Wednesday that it hopes will clean up college basketball, which has been engulfed by an FBI investigation and other corruption over the past two years.
Among the significant changes that were adopted by the NCAA’s board of governors and Division I board of directors are allowing elite high school basketball recruits and college players to be represented by agents who are certified by the NCAA; allowing eligible underclassmen to enter the NBA draft and return to school if undrafted; introducing more rigorous certification requirements for summer amateur basketball events; and imposing longer postseason bans, suspensions and increased recruiting restrictions for coaches who break rules.
“These changes will promote integrity in the game, strengthen accountability and prioritize the interest of student-athletes over every other factor,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement. “We remain committed to promoting fairness in college sports and creating an environment that will champion the success of student-athletes.”
Source: Mark Schlabach of ESPN
NBA Daily: Junior Robinson: “Size Doesn’t Matter”
Junior Robinson talked to Basketball Insiders about the Pro Basketball Combine, his athletic family tree and that killer on-court fearlessness.
At just 5-foot-5, Junior Robinson is easily one of the shortest players to go through the draft process in some time. But after four successful seasons at Mount Saint Mary’s, Robinson refuses to let his height define him as he reaches for the next level in his ever-evolving basketball journey.
In May, Robinson was invited to the Pro Basketball Combine, an opportunity for the collegiate star to prove himself on a big stage ahead of the NBA Draft. But even with a solid showing in both the testing and scrimmage stages of the audition, Robinson is expected to go undrafted this month. Still, there remain plenty of avenues — starting with summer leagues and two-way contracts — for Robinson to head down.
For now, however, he’s happy for the chance to compete and prove himself one more time.
“It was fun, I’ve had a great time so far, I’m here to have fun as well as try to make a name for myself — as the rest of these guys are,” Robinson told Basketball Insiders. “I think I played well, I didn’t make a lot of shots, as many as I wanted to, but, at the end of the day, I think I did well.”
Robinson, who led the Mountaineers to 18 wins in 2017-18, has undergone the type of transformation front offices specifically scout for. After averaging 8.2 points and 3.3 assists as a freshman, Robinson grew into his game, role and responsibilities. He would finish his collegiate career pulling down 22 points and 4.8 assists per game instead, a scoring tally that was good for 16th-best in all of Division-I. For somebody that often faced defenders more than a foot taller than him, shooting 44.6 percent from the field — and a workable 38.8 from three-point land — this year is a testament to Robinson’s willingness to adapt and survive.
“I had to find different ways to do different things, I’m not jumping over guys like 6-foot-9 — so I had to find a way to score around, over, or, you know what I’m sayin’,” Robinson said. “I had to do a lot of things to just improve my game inside, outside, ball handling, everything had to improve in order for me to be where I am today.”
Today, although accomplished, the odds are still stacked against Robinson. To date, only Earl Boykins and Muggsy Bogues have reached the NBA at 5-foot-5 or smaller. Bogues averaged 7.7 points and 7.6 assists over 14 NBA seasons, while Boykins himself enjoyed 13 — but those are two of the greatest exceptions, not the rule. Currently, the league’s shortest players are Kay Felder, who only played two games in 2017-18, and Isaiah Thomas, both standing at 5-foot-9. Of course, Thomas, a more recent success story, was the No. 60 overall pick in 2011 and has parlayed that opportunity into two All-Star appearances and a top-five MVP finish last season.
But when he was asked what exactly he’s looking to prove these days, Robinson’s answer was compelling.
“That size doesn’t matter. I mean, as long as you have heart and you’re willing to compete and give it your all every day — what’s height got to do with it?” Robinson told Basketball Insiders. “All my life, I’ve been told I’m too small, I’m too short or that I’m not gonna be able to play with bigger guys. At some point, that phrase and all those have to go away, you just have to be a basketball player.
“And that’s what I try to prove — that I’m just a basketball player like the rest of these guys.”
Over his four seasons in Maryland, Robinson collected a handful of impressive individual outings — but perhaps none more so than the show he put on against Loyola back in early December. During a slim five-point victory, Robinson logged 39 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals on 4-for-7 from long-range. No matter your size, that’s an achievement worth acknowledging — and Robinson made a habit of putting in big performances like that all season. When Robinson scored above his season average (22), the Mountaineers were 11-4, a mark that accounted for 61 percent of the university’s wins last year.
Where Robinson went, so did Mount St. Mary’s.
Watching Robinson, even from afar, is a treat. There’s certainly something to be said for the league’s hulking, mammoth rim-rattlers, but Robinson’s craftiness and clever play can be just as enthralling. Utilizing pump-fakes, feints, floaters and his reckless abandon, Robinson frequently excelled at creating scoring chances out of very little. Any NBA franchise that gives Robinson an extended look this summer will find a hard-working, determined scorer — traits he credits to his uber-athletic family tree.
“My parents are pretty athletic,” Robinson said. “My mom played at Elon and went overseas and played in Germany. My dad was really athletic, he could do any type of dunk at like 5-foot-4. It’s in my genes as well, it’s also a competitive thing — I wanna be the best I can be. I wanna be just as good as these guys or be on that pedestal. For me to be able to come in here and play with them, it’s great for me.”
For now, nobody is quite sure what the future holds for Robinson, but he’ll likely get his shot to go headlong at looming seven-footers soon enough. His fearlessness has been a staple for Robinson since he arrived at Mount St. Mary’s in 2014 — get knocked down, get right back up. As he tells it now, Robinson knew he had to be unshakable to make the next level, slowly honing those killer instincts and shifty offensive moves. What we’re left with now, effectively, is a very talented 22-year-old scorer that spent last season as a legitimate Division-I force to be reckoned with.
But to him, Robinson’s unparalleled fearlessness is all just another day at the office.
“I think was I was nine, I went up and a kid knocked me over and I realized: It’s not going to kill me, so why not?”
And the rest is history.
NBA Daily: Egor Koulechov: Three Schools, Five Years, One NBA Dream
At the Pro Basketball Combine, Egor Koulechov talked about his overseas journey, his extensive collegiate history and what it was like leaving home to chase a dream.
“Do you want the beginning, or do you want the condensed version from when I got to the states?”
When Egor Koulechov was asked to describe his worldwide basketball journey at May’s Pro Basketball Combine, he laughed before responding. After all, it’s a story he’s told a hundred times before — so what’s one more? In pursuit of reaching the summit of his NBA dream, Koulechov grew up grinding overseas before attending three stateside colleges in five years.
While he’s facing an uphill battle from here, Koulechov refuses to give up on it just yet.
As Koulechov, 23, recounts it now — albeit in an abridged, rapid-fire version — he lived in Volgograd, Russia until the age of six, then his family moved to a Neve Ur, a kibbutz in northern Israel. At 14, Koulechov relocated from home and played for two separate academy clubs, Maccabi Rishon LeZion and Wingate, as he progressively fell further and further in love with the game. Subsequently, Koulechov told his parents he wanted to play basketball in the United States, so he packed up and stayed with a host family alone for the following two years.
“I remember when I was sitting on that plane when I left my parents, that’s when it kind of hit me,” Koulechov told Basketball Insiders. “I’m not going to see my parents every day anymore, I’m not going to be home, I’m going to have to take care of myself. . .
“It’s just been an incredible journey, to be honest, I’ve met so many people, but it’s such a big adjustment, I remember, at 16, I struggled with it for a little bit.”
From there, Koulechov enrolled at Arizona State, where he averaged just 3.7 points and 2.8 rebounds in 14 minutes per game as a freshman. Smartly, the Israeli-Russian transferred to Rice University, sat out a season in accordance with NCAA rules and then took a massive step forward. In his second season at Rice, Koulechov pulled down 18.2 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists on 47.4 percent from three-point range. All of sudden, he was back on the map.
“Then, last year at Rice, I had a decision to make, whether I wanted to go pro or would I want to do a grad year,” Koulechov said. “I was kind of in between and decided to give this thing one last go-around to stay in the States and give myself the best shot of making my dreams come true — that’s why I went to Florida for one year.”
This past spring, Koulechov wrapped up a graduate transfer season at the University of Florida, where the 6-foot-5 guard tallied 13.8 points and 6.4 rebounds over 30.6 minutes per game. He started in all 34 games for the tournament-bound Gators, using his innate playmaking abilities and solid shooting marks to take advantage of smaller defenders. During Florida’s first-round victory over St. Bonaventure, Koulechov took in a team-high 20 points along with six rebounds — all season long, he was the team’s most consistent contributor. Although it wasn’t enough to get Koulechov to the NBA Draft Combine, he was more than happy to compete in the Pro Basketball Combine instead.
“It was awesome, honestly, I haven’t done workouts like that in front of teams, I haven’t had any NBA workouts, I have some lined up later — but this was good, this was a good experience,” Koulechov said. “It’s honestly a little nerve-wracking at first, when you kind of have all those people watching you there shoot, kind of a little tense, but once you start getting used to it and getting in the flow, it’s kind of easier.”
More likely than not, Koulechov will go undrafted later this month — but with private workouts, multiple summer leagues and two-way contracts ahead of him, he’ll get plenty of chances to prove he belongs. Even as he works from behind the eight ball, the modern league thrives on three-point shooting, so it doesn’t seem unreasonable that Koulechov, a career 39.5 percent marksman in college, could certainly catch on with the right franchise.
But his capable combine performance helped him exhibit far more than just his long-range abilities.
“Toughness, shooting, rebounding, defense, all those things — the 3-and-D thing that’s been going around a lot,” Koulechov said. “That’s kind of what I try to portray and show those guys, but it’s just how I play. It’s not like I try really hard, it’s kind of coming natural.”
Of course, it hasn’t been an easy road for the overseas dreamer — but it’s only served to make him even stronger. Unlike most NBA prospects, Koulechov was never a highly sought-after high school prospect, nor was he chased by five or six elite collegiate programs either. And yet, he still sacrificed everything to come stateside and compete for an opportunity. Now, he stands closer than ever to the big leagues, but he almost didn’t make it here.
During that challenging season at Arizona State in 2013-14, Koulechov couldn’t stop the doubts from sneaking in.
“[I felt like giving up] many times, many times,” Koulechov told Basketball Insiders. “But after my freshman year, I was kind of like: ‘Wow, why do I need this?’ Why when I could just go back home, play pro and make decent money? But I like to think of myself as mentally tough, and I know a lot of Israeli players who came through college and came for one year and then they left — everybody leaves after one year.
“I kind of wanted to be tougher than that. I didn’t want to be just another guy that tried it and went back to the same old thing, so that’s what I really wanted to get out of it.”
He’s not wrong either, and the current list of Israeli-born NBA players is a short one. Outside of the Indiana Pacers’ T.J. Leaf — born in Tel Aviv — and Omri Casspi, who was cut by the Golden State Warriors in early April, Israeli representation remains low. Koulechov’s passion for his hometown has motivated him through years of ups and downs — but following that stellar second season at Rice, he knew he had to keep reaching for his decade-long goal.
“If I did go back to Israel, I’d have to do military service, so this right now is me trying to make it to the NBA so I can represent Israel and give them another player,” Koulechov said. “That’s my dream, that’s always been my dream since I started playing basketball at 13. So that’s why I stayed here for another year.
“I could’ve been playing pro after one year of college or even before that — but this has always been my dream so I’m just trying to give it my best shot.”
After recapping his lifelong journey up until this point — a path that took him to three countries and three colleges before the age of 22 — Koulechov paused, smiled and said: “That’s the condensed version.”
And if Egor Koulechov has his way, his story is far from over.