Inside the Monarchy
For ODU’s men’s basketball team, third season is about energy and focus
by Rich Radford
Red-shirt freshman Ambrose Mosley sat at the podium talking about offensive confidence and defensive effort. He and his Old Dominion Monarchs had just dissected Radford University, 82-59, at the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Round 2 of the College Basketball Invitational Monday night.
The victory earned the Monarchs a date Wednesday night in the semifinals at and against Fresno State. Win that and ODU will get at least one more home game, for this tournament’s championship round is a best-two-out-of-three. Illinois State and Siena are in the other semi.
As for Monday night, much was accomplished by the Monarchs. Richard Ross, who sat a few feet away from Mosley, scored a career-high 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. He mixed in crowd-pleasing dunks on way to probably his best-ever box score: 9 for 15 from the field, 5 for 7 from the line, four assists, a blocked shot and a steal in 28 minutes. And no turnovers.
Mosley, because of the circumstances, played a lot, a minute more than Ross. And he was quite thrilled with his night’s effort. He spoke about how much more comfortable he is shooting the ball now after scoring 15 points and hitting three 3-pointers. At season’s beginning, he’d been apprehensive to shoot what is a really pretty jump shot.
His apprehension was understandable. Not only did he red-shirt the 2012-13 season, he also didn’t participate in practices by NCAA mandate. But that was a long time ago now.
Mosley grinned as he explained that he’d been “down in a defensive stance tonight more than I may ever have been.” Then to prove it, he fell to the floor as he tried to rise from the interview table. Cramps had overcome him.
We’ve all been there: That unexpected, momentarily paralyzing cramp.
His teammate Ross couldn’t keep a straight face. Neither could his coach, Jeff Jones. And neither could athletic director Wood Selig when a trainer said, “You want a banana? How about some pickle juice? Pickle juice is good for cramps.”
Mosley is possibly the best reason for the Monarchs to participate in the College Basketball Invitational. He caught fire at the end of the regular season. As much as any player on this roster, Mosley could gain from playing a bit more basketball this season, cramps and all.
After scoring 16 points in ODU’s first CBI game against South Dakota State, Mosley is averaging 15.5 points per game in the CBI and 13.5 points over the last six games. For stark contrast, he averaged 3.5 points in ODU’s first six games of the season.
“I know there are detractors,” Jones said, talking about people who think the CBI is a less-than-appealing postseason event. “I could really not care less what they think. Nobody can tell me this is not valuable, that it won’t help us next year.”
Certainly, it has helped the Monarchs’ record. ODU has now assured itself no worse than a break-even record after improving to 18-17 on the season. And while this isn’t the NCAA or the NIT, this tournament has a pretty fair list of tournament champions over its seven-year run. The previous winners include Tulsa, Oregon State, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Santa Clara and VCU.
Ross admitted that although it’s been a long basketball season he would still be playing pickup basketball in his spare time if the Monarchs weren’t in the CBI. So if he’s going to play ball, why not play ball that counts for something?
“You can practice this game all you want,” Ross said. “But you cannot simulate playing in a college basketball game.”
Quite simply, that’s why Ambrose Mosley cramped, why he found himself laying on the floor behind an interview table, the edge of the tablecloth tickling his face as he laughed at himself and the comments being made by those close by.
If he hadn’t been playing in a real college basketball game, if he’d just been playing a pickup game, he wouldn’t have cramped because he wouldn’t have played as hard as he did Monday night against Radford. He simply wouldn’t have.
As it is, every minute Mosley and the rest of the Monarchs play right now is a glimpse into next season and what could be. Let’s face facts: After the Monarchs won all of five games a year ago, who would have figured them to win 18 this season?
Now, there’s the actual chance for a 20-win season. And you can devalue it all you want if you are a glass-half-empty type, but anybody who was at the Constant Center on Monday night – and attendance was an entertained 3,486 souls – saw the Monarchs diving for loose balls, playing scrappy defense, and shooting well enough to score the most points they have in the calendar year of 2014.
Jones said his practices in this third season – the one after the regular season and the conference tournament – have been short and to the point. There’s not a lot that can be folded into the game plan at this point. But emphasis on emotion and effort can be made.
“Right now, it’s all about energy and focus,” Jones said. “And we preached it.”