Iowa's Isaiah Moss ready to fill some big shoes
NORTH LIBERTY, Ia. — Anyone who has watched Isaiah Moss take over a summer-league game will find this hard to believe, but there are times when teammates have to tell him to be more aggressive.
“The more aggressive, the better,” Iowa forward Nicholas Baer said Sunday after Moss scored 27 points in a Prime Time League game at the North Liberty Community Center.
“We talk all the time in practice. I just try to increase his confidence and keep telling him to be aggressive.”
Moss worked his way into the Hawkeye starting lineup as a redshirt freshman last winter. He mixed moments of pure adrenaline, when he would fill up the basket seemingly at will, with moments when you hardly noticed he was on the court. Sometimes in the same game.
The result was a respectable scoring average of 6.5 points and 36-percent shooting from the 3-point arc. But those numbers masked the volatility in Moss’s performances.
“I think part of it is just being a freshman. The first season, it’s a roller coaster,” said Baer, a wise junior leader on a young Iowa team. “That’s just what it means to be a college basketball player is figuring it out, and I think he’s definitely going to do that and he should have a really good year.”
Moss, a 6-foot-5 wing, is intent on doing just that. He missed a couple of days of practice recently with a toe injury, but showed Sunday that he’s still as dynamic a player as the Hawkeyes have. Now, he said, he wants to become an exceptional ball-handler so he can improve on the 29 assists he recorded a year ago.
He expects to have the ball more on the wing this year after Peter Jok’s graduation. And that means more dribbling.
“Last year, I was kind of like catch and shoot, I think. This year, I’m looking to make plays off the dribble for my teammates,” Moss said.
Like a point guard?
“I don’t know. If Coach (Fran McCaffery) wants me to play the 1, I’ll play the 1. I’m confident in my ball-handling skills,” Moss said with a smile. “I’m going to be ready just in case.”
Moss said there has been increasing emphasis on lob passes this summer, something that an Iowa team whose average height is 6-7 can utilize in the transition game, where Moss, in particular, excels.
Moss looks forward to delivering those passes. He showed last year that he should be on the receiving end of his share as well.
But mostly, he wants to become a more consistent option for Iowa. It’s a deep team and minutes may be hard to come by, so he’s intent on filling each of them with activity this year.
“I was just inconsistent last year. I went through kind of a drought. I guess I was too hard on myself,” Moss said. “This year, I’m just staying confident in my game and keep shooting.
“I think it’s going to be a whole new game this year. Our team is looking really good. I’m really excited for it. There’s definitely going to be more running, get out in transition, lobs. We’ve got some big guys now. We’re working on lobs.”
That dynamic might also mean more full-court pressure defense, another aspect of the game where Moss can make his mark. It’s a style he grew accustomed to at Simeon High School in Chicago. Moss was at the top of the press then, and is hoping he can be again as a Hawkeye.
That outcome will be up to McCaffery and his staff. For now, Moss is working on pacing himself better, even in the summer league.
“I tend to just go fast, fast, fast. So I’m working on my pace, slowing down, seeing the floor,” he said.
Baer has noticed that change, too. But one thing that hasn’t changed, Baer said, is that when the team needs to score, Moss is the first option.
“He’s not a ball hog. He’ll share the ball,” Baer said of his summer-league teammate. “But he’s one of those guys where, if you need someone to get a one-on-one bucket, he’s the guy to go to.”
The Hawkeyes will need a guy like that this winter as well. Last year, Jok led the Big Ten Conference in scoring and was the primary offensive option.
“It’s definitely going to be hard to fill that spot, but I’m confident that I can come out and do some real good things,” Moss said.
“I think we’re going to have more ball movement. That’s what I’m working on. I can be him (Jok). Hopefully better.”
That’s an aggressive statement. Baer would approve.