Moody settling in as Ole Miss point guard

Stefan Moody was moved off the ball to point guard three weeks ago.

The transition has been nothing short of seamless. Actually, with the way he’s playing, you’d think he’s handled the position his entire career. 

That’s because, well, he pretty much has.

Moody predominately played point guard in previous stops at Florida Atlantic and Kilgore College. He averaged over 15 points per game and won Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year in 2012-13, and in his only season at Kilgore produced at a 17.7 ppg clip.

Kennedy played him at the two in his first season at Ole Miss because the Rebels had veteran Jarvis Summers entrenched at the point when he arrived. Moody responded with an impressive debut year, earning first team All-SEC and finishing with over 16 points a game. 

But Summers is long gone now, and newcomers J.T. Escobar and Sam Finley have yet to find their footing. The show is Moody’s to run. He’s embracing the opportunity.

“I haven’t really changed anything,” he said. “I’ve been taking it as it comes.”

Moody’s game is predicated on ball control and attacking the basket. Sure, he can be a volume 3-point shooter, but his greatest strength is beating defenders off the bounce through his athleticism and explosiveness despite his 5-foot-9 size. 

Point guard is perfect for him, really, even if his taking on the role wasn’t the plan. Ole Miss lost to George Mason in the Charleston Classic Nov. 19, and the struggles of Finley and Escobar were a big reason why. Finley especially. He made just four of his 15 shot attempts and notched just one assist. 

“It was a team conversation,” Moody said. “Me and (head coach Andy Kennedy) didn’t have that conversation personally. He had us all in there after the George Mason loss, and he told us we needed to make some changes and he wanted to try me at the point to see how things work. The next game, the Towson game, that was a great game for us. We all felt good that game, and me being at the point was a success, so he kept me there.

“I had a few conversations with (assistant coach Todd Abernethy) about it, that I wanted to play the point. The new guys, J.T. and Sam, they just got here. They’re not really in it like they should. The reads are harder for them to make ‘cause they just got here. Me, it felt like I was just kind of running back and forth on the base line, just doing nothing.”

Moody hasn’t missed a beat since the move was made, though he did have a tough outing against Seton Hall. He’s averaging 23.0 points in his five games at point guard, including two 30-point efforts, the latest in a win at UMass Dec. 5.

Better yet, he’s protecting the ball and getting his teammates involved. He has 26 assists compared to 13 turnovers since the George Mason loss, and six of his turnovers came against Seton Hall.

“With the flow of the game, it kind of comes naturally,” Moody said. “When you’re playing, a lot of guys tend to look at me. They’re looking at me, I’ve got players on my team that can make plays. If you’re just going to pay attention to me, I have no problem passing it to them.”

Kennedy has made other adjustments to his lineup outside of Moody at point guard. He’s alternated Rasheed Brooks and Martavious Newby at the two, while Anthony Perez was inserted at the three in an effort to add more size to the Ole Miss front line.

So far, the lineup is working. Ole Miss still isn’t shooting the ball all that well (43 percent on the year), but they Rebels are converting their free throw opportunities at a solid rate, they’re rebounding better and they’re defending. They’ve won three-straight games.

Moody believes the shooting will come. UMass was a good start. Ole Miss made 46 percent of its shots in the game. From 3, however, the Rebels were 5 of 19.

“Early on, everyone was still trying to figure out if the shots we were taking were the right shots. ‘Should I take this shot? Should I not take this one?’ Everybody’s trying to squeeze it a little bit when they’re shooting,” he said. “Having a game like UMass, playing a quality team and everybody kind of getting their fill in, and Tomasz (Gielo) and Sebas(tian Saiz) were carrying us at the beginning of the game, that loosens them up. Seeing it go in loosens up everybody else. I know we’ll get into a good flow offensively.”

Ole Miss (6-2) returns to action Saturday at Southeast Missouri.

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