Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and a voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year three times.
Moody a key piece to Hogs' puzzle
Arkansas guard Moses Moody is shown during an October 2020 practice in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — With nine healthy scholarship newcomers, University of Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman still has a lot of decisions to make about who is going to do what for his basketball team.
One thing Musselman said he knows right now is Moses Moody, a 6-6 freshman guard from Little Rock, will have a key role.
“Look, Moses solidified himself as far as where he’s going to be in the rotation and how we’re going to utilize him,” Musselman said after Thursday’s Red-White game. “I think we’re still trying to figure out other pieces to this puzzle and how it all kind of works out.
“But Moses is a guy that we’re definitely going to run plays for.”
Moody helped solidify his spot in the rotation by scoring 22 points in 29 minutes — the game was divided into four, 8-minute quarters — to help the Red team beat the White team 103-67. He also had 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and 1 blocked shot.
What Musselman really liked about Moody’s stat line was something he didn’t do — turn the ball over.
“The really, really positive with Moses Moody was the 29 minutes with zero turnovers, because … historically in the past we’ve been a low turnover team,” Musselman said. “And we feel like that’s a really important stat for us.”
Musselman said Moody excelled in a lengthy portion of practice on Wednesday devoted to late-game shooting situations.
“We did a segment for about 45 minutes where we came out of huddles and said, ‘All right, 12 seconds, down 2, 14 seconds, down 3,’ ” Musselman said. “Then we ran specific plays and specific actions. Moses was the guy that converted at the highest rate, at least off that one day.”
Moody’s shooting carried over into the Red-White game. He hit 7 of 14 attempts from the field, including 2 of 6 three-pointers, and was 5 of 5 on free throws.
“Playing with Moses is a lot of fun,” said forward Justin Smith, a graduate transfer from Indiana who scored 22 points for the Red team. “He’s able to stretch the defense because of his shooting so that they have to really key in on him. So that gives a lot of driving lanes for everybody else.
“He’s an unselfish player. He makes the right plays. He rebounds and does all the little things as well. So he’s a very good player.”
Moody was one of four freshmen who got to play in front of the Red-White crowd, announced as 2,023 students, at Walton Arena.
“It was great for all the new players to be able to play with the lights on with a crowd, because it would have not been a great situation to go out and do that the first time when we’re playing a regular-season game,” said Musselman, whose Razorbacks open on Nov. 25 against Mississippi Valley State. “To have over 2,000 people, I don’t think any of us expected to have that many people show up for a Red-White game where it was students only.
“Really good atmosphere for especially the four freshmen, but also for the grad transfers that have never played in this building.”
Khalen “KK” Robinson, a freshman guard from Little Rock, led the White team with 18 points in 29 minutes. He hit 8 of 11 shots, including 2 of 5 three-pointers, and had 3 rebounds and 2 assists.
Freshman guard Davonte “Devo” Davis from Jacksonville played 32 minutes for the White team and had 8 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. He was 2 of 8 from the field and 4 of 4 on free throws. Davis also won a pregame dunk contest against Moody, Smith and junior forward Ethan Henderson.
Jaylin Williams, a freshman forward from Fort Smith, played for both the Red and White teams and hit 1 of 4 shots and 2 of 2 free throws for 4 points with 7 rebounds and 1 assist in 28 minutes.
“I think that just like any freshmen, whether it’s here or anywhere else in the country, they’re going to have good days and bad days, and days that it’s kind of in-between,” Musselman said. “You can’t just go off one 32-minute segment, because Jaylin Williams has mostly done a really great job for most of our training camp segment, and he maybe didn’t play as well [Thursday night] as he has in practice.
“And KK probably played better than he has in practice. Then with Devo, he’s a really, really good rebounder. He’s really good in transition … and I thought he moved the ball.”
Musselman said he wants each freshman to find his niche.
“I think that’s the big thing,” Musselman said. “How do you find a role to contribute, and then that role expands once there is confidence amongst your teammates.”
Musselman already has confidence in playing Moody. Now it’s a matter of Moody playing well enough when the season starts to earn more minutes.
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