Published on March 6th, 2015 | by Carver Rayburn0
Stefan Moody has ignited the Rebels down the stretch, but is it enough?
University, Miss. (TLV) – After Ole Miss saw the departure of Marshall Henderson, there was a mad dash to find a player who could come to the standards of filling that void for 2015. Enter Stefan Moody. Humble. Calm and Collected. A carrier of character. But he can shoot. And jump. Unlike any other in recent memory.
All the junior guard has done is put the team on his shoulders during a stretch of mid season games that saw Ole Miss go 8–1 in the SEC. Moody is averaging 16.4 points per game, and knocking down over 91 percent of his free throws, yet Ole Miss finds itself in a familiar area again. They need a few wins to lock an invite to the NCAA Tournament.
“I don’t pay attention to any of that,” Moody said. “I’m sure if you asked any player on the team what our RPI is you will get an ‘I don’t know.’ We just want to win games and make the tournament.”
The Rebels will have to win Saturday at home against Vanderbilt and get a couple in the SEC Tournament to solidify their spot in the NCAA Big Dance.
Moody. Who starred in high school for Poniciana (Kissimmiee, Fla.) led the squad to a 20–10 season his final year. He was named to the Florida Class 7A all-state team, Parade All-America team and others.
After scoring 27.9 points per game as a senior, Moody made his way to Florida Atlantic where he saw action in 29 games as a freshman. He was named Freshman of the Year after averaging 15.7 points per game, 4.2 rebounds, and 2.2 assists.
A stop by the JUCO ranks for his sophomore season reopened his recruitment, and the Ole Miss staff took notice.
“Ole Miss was pretty much the first major college team to recruit me,” Moody said. “I saw them more than anyone else. I had interests from other schools, but I didn’t feel like I was their first option.”
Moody didn’t really evolve into the impact player until January rolled around. In SEC action, he has been a tough man to stop, creating havoc on both sides of the ball.
“Impact?” Head Coach Andy Kennedy said. “Yeah I did think he would have that type of an impact. I thought it would have come quicker. Physically, he is special. I knew he could be an explosive player. Once he started playing well, it just caught on.”
It caught on, all right. Moody has been draining threes and making free throws like few in the nation. Moody is hitting 91 percent of his free throws, 37 percent of his three pointers, and 40 percent of all shots from the floor.
His back-to-back performances against Tennessee and Mississippi State earned him SEC Player of the week honors. During that two game span, Moody scored 51 points, and hit 14 three pointers. His three 3-point baskets in 82 seconds against Mississippi State were good enough to erase a 10-point deficit to give Ole Miss its first series sweep of The Bulldogs since 1998.
The catch during this final stretch of Ole Miss Basketball is: can the team come together and play a complete game? Can the team win the rebound war? Can the team have two or three players score in double digits? Can the team play to its full potential?
“I think we are a much better closing team,” Moody said. “We just have to find a way to play well together for an entire game.”
After Moody departs from his time as an Ole Miss Rebel, he hopes that his teammates and AK are ok with him. That’s all he wants to be remembered by.
“As long as AK is good with me and my effort, and my teammates are good with me, I’m happy.”
Ole Miss will host the Vanderbilt Commodores at home on Saturday for the last SEC game ever to be played in Tad Smith Coliseum. The game is set for 8 pm on the SEC Network and could be the difference between a four- or six-seed in the SEC Tournament. A win or two at the conference tourney, and this team is dancing. Any more bad losses and it may take a little more.
This article was originally printed in The Local Voice #224 (published March 5, 2015.)
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