By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – I’ll admit that I was stunned after learning that Isaiah Moss planned to test the NBA draft process.
I wasn’t surprised that an announcement was made concerning Moss’ future with the Iowa basketball team because rumors had persisted since the end of the season that he might be among the departures, which currently stands at two for sure in Brady Ellingson and Ahmad Wagner, and maybe a third in Tyler Cook and now Moss.
It was the circumstances that surprised me.
Not once did I consider that the 6-foot-5 Moss might want to test the NBA draft process as a third-year sophomore.
Even after Cook made his announcement in early March about testing the NBA draft process did I consider that Moss might do the same thing.
But you can’t blame or criticize Moss for pursuing his dream and for doing whatever he feels is in his best interest to achieve it.
Moss is like almost every other player on a big-time college basketball team in that he hopes college will be a springboard to the NBA, and the sooner the better.
And with the new rule that allows a player to return to college if he doesn’t sign with an agent, it can be argued that Moss really has nothing to lose and everything to gain.
The Chicago native now gets to learn first-hand what it takes to make an NBA roster and where he stands in that regard.
I hadn’t given Moss much NBA consideration at this stage, or any for that matter, because he still is very much a work in progress at the collegiate level.
His defense leaves much to be desired and his offense leaves you shaking your head at times because Moss has been spectacular in some stretches, but has disappeared for other stretches.
His 19-point eruption in the final 96 seconds of a loss at Minnesota in February was something that most players probably couldn’t come close to matching. His ability to make 3-point baskets and to create his own shot off the dribble and with penetration were all highlighted during that incredible display.
But Moss also had four games this past season in which he scored only two points.
I assumed that Moss would return for his junior season after spending this offseason working on the parts of his game that still need a lot of work.
He still could return as long as he doesn’t hire an agent. And the same with the 6-foot-9 Cook.
So I agree that Moss has nothing to lose by testing the NBA waters, and that he has every right to do so.
Moss is nearing the end of his third year at Iowa after being redshirted as a true freshman during the 2015-16 season. So he has spent some time in college.
But I don’t agree with those who say that it also benefits the Iowa program to have Moss and Cook both testing the NBA draft process.
It might create the perception that Iowa is recruiting and developing NBA talent under Fran McCaffery, but that perception wouldn’t last should Moss and Cook both go undrafted, which at this stage seems more likely to happen.
It also leaves McCaffery sort of in limbo with regard to his roster, and the situation could stay that way at least through May because that’s how long Moss and Cook have to make a decision about staying in the draft.
It wouldn’t be a big deal if Moss and Cook both return to Iowa for their junior seasons. But it would be a big deal if one, or both of them, decided to leave, especially if they didn’t decide until late in the evaluation process.
That would make it hard for McCaffery to recruit players to fill their voids for next season.
The NBA should consider ways to expedite the evaluation process and also should consider a screening process in which some players are told upfront where they stand as a prospect.
More players seem to be testing the NBA draft process to where you wonder if the NBA can handle all that goes into evaluating players like Moss and Cook. It takes time and facilities and money to make the process work.
So again, I have no problem with any college player who wants to chase his dream. I just wonder if the number of players chasing their dream might get out of hand.
My hope is that Moss and Cook both have long and distinguished careers in the NBA because I know that’s what they both want.
Iowa is also coming off a disappointing 14-19 season, so there will be concerns and potential pitfalls should they both choose to return. There is no guarantee that next season will be a success with or without Cook and Moss on the team.
So maybe they figure it's in their best interest to consider other options.