Yet Moss has endured, and no one on this team is enjoying the Gators' 17-and-0 season more than the 6'8" forward. Moss accepts his role of coming off the bench while guys three and four years younger get most of the playing time. Adrian Moss just wants to win; and he wants to make sure his youthful teammates keep that as their number one priority too.
It Wasn't Supposed to be Like This
Two years ago Adrian Moss was a key to the Gators reaching the SEC Tournament final against Kentucky. He scored 35 points and 19 rebounds in those three games, giving an indication he was ready to expand his role as a junior in 2004-05. But back trouble changed all that, and reduced Moss from a guy who averaged almost seven points and five rebounds and played about 23 minutes a game to a guy who produced less than half that.
Coming Through when Needed
This year Moss is the second big man off the bench after junior Chris Richard. He averages about four points and two boards in 13 or so minutes a game. Yet when Florida has really needed him, Adrian Moss has stepped up.
In Madison Square Garden in the Coaches versus Cancer tournament, Florida was struggling against Wake Forest and young studs Al Horford and Joakim Noah had foul trouble. Enter Adrian Moss for eight points, eight rebounds and quality post defense as the Gators came back for a 77-72 win. Three weeks later at Providence Al Horford had foul issues and eventually fouled out. No problem, just bring in Moss who chipped in ten points and seven boards to help the Gators improve to 8-and-0 on the young campaign. More recently against Mississippi State both Joakim Noah and Horford had tough days; combining for 12 points but committing nine turnovers. Adrian Moss again came to the rescue with eight points, three rebounds and no turnovers in 19 minutes.
I recently spoke with the Gator senior about this team's perfect season, his role and what lies ahead.
LV: what's it been like going through the season, piling up the wins and still unbeaten at this stage?
AM: We're just trying to go out and keep winning. It's no different feeling from any other time just trying to take one game at a time.
LV: You've played on good teams your entire career, but this one keeps avoiding that setback. Even in the games you guys haven't played your best you still keep getting the wins. How is this group able to do that?
AM: We're just trying to grind ‘em out. We focus on playing hard each position, continuing to defend and rebound and be unselfish. If we play the game the right way we'll keep winning.
LV: When you were going through the off-season program was there a time when you started to think, this is going to be something special?
AM: I always had a good feeling about this team because we have a bunch of hungry and humble guys. They work hard and love to play and compete. As long as you have guys like that, you got a chance to win.
LV: When were you able to tell that these guys would have no fear about playing top competition and living up to the legacy of previous Gator teams?
AM: As soon as they stepped on campus. In practice last year and when they played in games they showed no fear. They've done an incredible job.
LV: What is it like for you -- the oldest guy on the team -- coming off the bench behind younger players? How do you feel about your role?
AM: I'm just wanting to help the team get wins. Whatever my role is I'm going to do it to the best of my ability.
LV: Do you get more satisfaction out of games like Wake Forest and Providence when the other guys struggle or on foul trouble the team really needs you to step it up and you come through?
AM: I get a lot of satisfaction in winning. If I do a lot or a little, I'm happy if we keep winning.
LV: Is this team handling the high national ranking any differently than the other teams you've been on?
AM: I don't think we're handling it differently, but it is different. The other teams were ranked pre-season and it was expected for us to get real high. This team was about a hundred or so in pre-season and now we're up to number two. But we're still hungry and humble and trying to get better.
LV: Of course what made it all possible was when you guys won the tournament up in New York to start the year. Was that the message you expected to deliver all along?
AM: You know every game we play we expect to win. So winning that tournament was just a block on our road to success. We passed that block and we've passed a few more since then and we've got a lot more ahead.
LV: These guys have to go through the grind of a SEC schedule. I know they went through it last year, but most of them weren't playing nearly as much as they are now. What can you do as a senior to help them through it?
AM: Just tell ‘em to keep at it. Keep plugging away and grinding away. We have a lot of depth and we have a lot of players who know how to compete so I think we'll be okay.
When this season is over, chances are Adrian Moss' scoring and rebounding numbers won't change much. But there's an even better chance there will be one or two games where his play off the bench makes the difference in a Gator win.
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