Next week, before taking off for the Final Four, UNLV coach Dave Rice will hold individual meetings with each of his players to discuss their futures and officially close the book on the 2011-12 season.
The most intriguing meeting might be the one he has with star sophomore forward Mike Moser.
Sources have confirmed that Moser, who led UNLV in scoring (14.0 ppg) and rebounding (10.5 rpg) in his first season following a transfer from UCLA, is currently gathering information from NBA personnel to gauge where he would potentially be selected if he were to enter this June’s draft. UNLV began putting out requests for the info when the team returned from Albuquerque last weekend, following a 68-64 NCAA tournament first round loss to Colorado.
Testing the waters for Moser would have been different a year ago than it is now. By declaring for the draft without signing with an agent immediately, it leaves the door open for a possible return for his junior season. However, a year ago, the NCAA moved its deadline up to April 10 — a week after the Final Four — for draft hopefuls to decide whether to stay or go.
In other words, if Moser were to declare for the draft, he’d be doing so almost on blind faith in the feedback he, Rice and his family receive from NBA personnel, with practically no opportunity to work out for teams before having to make a decision.
The 6-foot-8 Portland, Ore., native certainly had his ups as a sophomore.
Moser ranked 10th in the nation in rebounds per game, while his 369 boards were the fourth highest single-season total in UNLV history. He also posted 14 double-doubles and had a couple of memorable, signature performances. None stood out more than his 16-point, 18-rebound showing in a Nov. 26 upset of then-No. 1 North Carolina. With more than 20 NBA scouts at the Orleans Arena that night to check out UNC’s wealth of future pro talent, he shined brighter than any of them and put himself squarely on their radars.
But Moser was also far from perfect on the floor this season, too.
He struggled offensively down the stretch run of the season, which could possibly be attributed to it being his first time getting heavy minutes in a college season. His legs simply didn’t hold up all that well by season’s end, and that also exposed a couple of flaws in his game that could use some continued work before going pro.
The two that stuck out are his ability to be a lockdown on-ball defender and his struggles to score in the low post.
A couple of times in the middle of the season, once his NBA buzz wore off a little bit, Moser told local reporters that he intended to stay as a junior, though it’s common knowledge that such proclamations from underclassmen in during a season should often be taken with a grain of salt. Now, multiple reports are indicating, according to anonymous sources, that he’s leaning towards giving the draft a go.
The latest came from ESPN.com’s Chad Ford — one of the most reliable and well-sourced reporters around when it comes to the draft. In his blog post on Wednesday morning, he said that Moser, according to his sources, is one of a handful of underclassmen who is “all but in” the draft. Ford currently has Moser ranked 47th on his Top 100 NBA draft prospect list.
If Moser were to enter the draft, would he be among the 60 players selected come June? It’s highly likely, though it’s tough to pin-point exactly where right now.
His ability to lead a fast break without hesitation after grabbing a defensive board is rare, and there’s no reason to believe that he can’t rebound at a high rate from the small forward position in the NBA. He can also shoot well enough to play that spot in the pros, but can he defend an NBA small forward?
He has the intangibles that would make him a safe pick for any team, too. Moser has an incredible work ethic and unique leadership qualities, evidenced best by how he took struggling teammate Karam Mashour under his wing after last season and helped him through a frustrating sophomore campaign in several ways.
With another season at UNLV, he can polish those lacking areas in his game and potentially develop into a solid first round pick a year from now. Given that he’s already on the radar of NBA personnel, it’s a very attainable goal.
They’re all things that Moser and his family will have to take into consideration when making a decision, which will likely come next week at some point.