Commentary

Oregon's Moser keeps eye on the prize

Updated: January 9, 2009, 3:33 PM ET
By Jon Mahoney | ESPNRISE.com

Prior to the start of last year's state playoffs, Grant boys' basketball coach Tony Broadous gathered his team for practice at the school's gymnasium.

[+] EnlargeMike Moser
Michael SchmittGrant senior small forward Mike Moser is Oregon's top boys' basketball player and one of the best overall nationally.

Seeking to motivate the group, Broadous pointed to the three championship banners adorning the gym walls and told the Generals they had a chance to bring another state crown home.

Suddenly, then-junior Mike Moser jumped up and started yelling, "I can see it! I can see us bringing it home! I can see us standing in front of the pep assembly with the banner!"

Like a scene from an Under Armour commercial, the speech fired up the team, and the players broke out dancing and jumping around.

"It did catch me off guard because I was just trying to set a goal of what we could accomplish," Broadous says. "I was delighted he took it that far."

Less than two weeks later, Moser's vision came to fruition as Grant toppled Oregon City, 63-56, in the Class 6A finals for its first state title since 1988 and fourth overall. And keying the Generals' momentous victory run was the precocious small forward who made the bold proclamation.

With Grant clinging to a 34-33 lead at halftime, Moser went out and delivered a brilliant second-half showing with 13 points, eight rebounds, three steals and two blocks in 16 minutes of action to help the Generals pull away. Moser finished with a team-high 20 points and a game-high 13 boards (seven offensive), four steals and three blocks to earn All-Tournament first team honors.

It was a performance that left no doubt Moser was Oregon's top player in the Class of 2009. Now a senior, the 6-foot-8, 200-pound UCLA recruit is rated the nation's No. 78 player in the ESPNU 100.

"I wasn't losing," says Moser, reflecting on the state championship win. "I knew it could happen, but I wanted to make sure it didn't happen. I just refused to lose."

"He went to work in that second half," adds Broadous, who's in his seventh year as head coach. "That was fun to see."

While Moser's dominant championship-game showing opened some eyes, it wasn't a surprise to Broadous. Since his freshman season, Moser has consistently come through when it matters most. In his varsity debut against Liberty, he joined the Grant starters in the second half when post Andrew Lindley went down with an ankle injury.

Moser's favorites

Movie: "He Got Game"
Actor: Denzel Washington
Musical Artist: Lil Wayne
Pregame Song: "Let the Beat Build" by Lil Wayne

The Generals needed somebody to step up, and Moser delivered by calmly draining three straight jumpers to open the second half.

He's been a starter -- and big-game baller -- ever since.

Moser has played in six state tournament games during his career, and he was in the Top 10 in scoring, rebounding, steals and blocks during last year's tourney. Grant failed to make the tournament Moser's first year but earned a fourth-place finish his sophomore season.

During the 2006-07 campaign's tourney run, Grant fell to eventual state champion South Medford in the quarterfinals and moved over to the consolation bracket.

Facing a win-or-go-home game against Canby, Moser tallied a game-high 22 points and 12 boards and dished out three assists while being guarded by Canby then-senior Clint Chapman, who now plays at Texas. Grant prevailed, 58-49, and went on to best McKay, 78-72, in the consolation final behind eight points and 13 rebounds from Moser.

"I like the big moments," says Moser. "I take them any chance I get. I'd rather be the person getting it done than relying on someone else."

"In the big games we've had, he's always elevated his game," Broadous adds.

Broadous witnessed great potential in Moser when he was just an eighth-grader at Beaumont Middle School. There, Moser showcased an all-around game that pointed to future stardom.

But what really caught Broadous' eye was how much the kid simply enjoyed playing the game, which still holds true today. When his coaches and family say Moser spends seven days a week in the gym, they're not talking in clichés -- they're telling the truth.

"It's not something he takes for granted," says Moser's mother, Jeanne. "He really has a vision and is willing to work for it."

"Mike puts in a lot of time," adds Moser's personal trainer, Kumbeno Memory, who also coaches his AAU team, I-5 Elite. "He's a gym rat and has a great attitude."

Memory has Moser perform a lot of ball-handling drills and attack moves and works with him on improving his footwork. The goal is for Moser to be ready to play the three right away at UCLA.

Through Memory, Moser has also been able to work out with San Antonio Spurs forward Ime Udoka, who starred at Jefferson and Portland State before going to the NBA. A sponsor of I-5, Udoka also serves as an example to Moser that earning a spot in The League is even harder than you'd think.

Udoka went undrafted out of college and spent time overseas and in the NBDL before earning regular run in the pros. Like many others, Udoka is impressed by Moser's desire for success.

"Seeing that work ethic with how talented he is, I think the sky's the limit," says Udoka.

While reaching the NBA is his ultimate goal, Moser has other business he'd like to take care of first. With the graduation of All-State first team point guard Paul McCoy, who's now at Southern Methodist University, Moser will have to step up his game even more this season. Last year, he averaged 15 points, 11 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 3.5 blocks per game -- while playing multiple positions -- to earn All-State second team honors from The Oregonian.

Moser is ready for the challenge. A two-year captain, he's already established himself as a leader and will try to deliver even more clutch performances so he can garner another state crown.

"It's the culmination of my high school career," says Moser. "I can't possibly have a good senior year unless I win a state championship."

He can already see it.

Jon Mahoney covers high school sports for ESPN RISE.

Jon Mahoney is a football and baseball editor for ESPNHS. Email him at jon.mahoney@espn.com.