NORTH LIBERTY, Ia. — Isaiah Moss is playing basketball this summer like someone returning from exile.
When his Prime Time League team is dividing up minutes, he wants the lion’s share. If there’s a shot available, he’s taking it.
“It was very tough for me, watching my teammates sometimes if we were struggling,” the Iowa Hawkeyes guard said of sitting out his freshman year. “But I just know that I can work hard and prepare for next year.”
Moss, a sturdy 6-foot-5, is playing in the Prime Time League as if next year has already arrived. On Thursday, he logged 38 minutes at North Liberty Recreation Center despite the fact that his team fell behind by double digits early and was drubbed 109-70.
No wonder Moss was still dripping sweat when he spoke with an assembly of curious reporters afterward.
“I loved it,” he said of his extended duty. “I try not to show the coach that I’m tired, so I can play the whole game. It’s fine.”
The curiosity about Moss is understandable. The Chicago native had academic problems that kept him from arriving in Iowa City in time to play in the PTL last summer. As the actual season approached, he decided to redshirt rather than try to make up for lost time and find a role on a veteran team.
Now that local fans are finally able to get a look at him, he seems determined to show what he can. Moss has been a consistent scorer in his first four PTL games, putting up 24, 24, 23 and 25 points. But the shots he’s needed to get those totals have been increasing — from 13 in the opener, to 17, 20 and, on Thursday, 21 attempts for a team starving for any semblance of offense.
“He’s a lot more aggressive and his shot’s looking a lot better. He’s always a promising perimeter shooter, but I think he’s developed his game a lot more,” said Iowa sophomore point guard Christian Williams, who played alongside Moss on the scout team last winter and is doing so in the PTL this summer. “He’s more of a finesse type of guy. He’s really good offensively; that’s where he strives the most and just getting out in transition.”
Moss hasn’t limited his shooting to the twice-weekly summer league games, either. He said he’s hoisting 800 to 1,000 shots each day during private workouts on campus. Don’t his arms ache from the effort?
“They were sore when I first started, but I’m used to it now,” he said with a smile.
Moss said he gained confidence during the year he sat out by battling with star shooting guard Peter Jok in practices.
Jok thinks Moss can bring a needed dimension to the Hawkeyes after the graduation of four starters from last year. He even held out the possibility that Moss can be added to the mix at an untested point guard position that includes Williams, Jordan Bohannon, Maishe Dailey and perhaps even Jok himself.
“He can really shoot the ball, but it’s going to take a little while to get comfortable,” Jok said of Moss.
“He can bring up the ball, handle the 1 (point guard position) sometimes. He’s a scorer. Not a lot of guys can handle the 1 and be a scorer. He’s one of those guys.”