Blue and Gold Illustrated

May 2021 Issue

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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42 MAY 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED IRISH IN THE PROS BY ANDREW MENTOCK M oon-man. Mr. Double-Double. Moons. John "Double-Double" Mooney. These are just a few of the many nicknames given to the former Notre Dame forward since joining the Perth Wildcats, one of nine teams in Austra- lia's NBL — the Oceania's most popu- lar professional basketball association. Similar to the fanfare he received in South Bend, Mooney quickly became a crowd favorite in Western Aus- tralia thanks to his consistency on both ends of the court. In 17 games through March 31, he was averaging 17.1 points and an NBL-leading 12.3 rebounds — 3.4 more than the next closest player. Mooney was the only player in the NBL averaging a double-double. For Fighting Irish fans, Mooney's statistical consistency should sound familiar. As a senior forward at Notre Dame, he finished second in Division I men's basketball with 12.7 rebounds per game and averaged 16.2 points — the seventh-best mark in the ACC. According to Mooney, his four years under the tutelage of Irish head coach Mike Brey prepared him well for his career in professional basketball. "How we played at Notre Dame helped me: it's free flowing, and it's a lot of read and react," Mooney said of Brey's system. "That's also how the game is over here." But even given Mooney's immedi- ate success in his first year of profes- sional basketball in Australia, he's actually ineligible to win the NBL's coveted Rookie of the Year award, most recently won by current Char- lotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball. The award is reserved for local players or those in the league's "Next Stars" program, which is an avenue for highly touted prep basketball players, such as the aforementioned Ball, to bypass college in preparation for the NBA (similar to the recent G- League model). Because Mooney went to college first, he's considered an "import" and is on a reserved contract. This is familiar territory for Mooney. As a senior at Notre Dame, he was also left off the 25-player midseason watch list for the Wooden Award, which recognizes college basketball's player of the year. He did, however, garner first-team All-ACC honors. But the "Moon-man" couldn't care less about midseason watch lists or international awards. First and fore- most, he's a team-first guy. LOST FINAL SEASON Notre Dame handed Boston Col- lege an 80-58 loss in the second round of the ACC Tournament on March 11, 2020. This was Mooney's final collegiate game, but it wouldn't be evident until the following day. At the moment, it appeared to be the type of momentum-shifting vic- tory the Fighting Irish, a team on the NCAA Tournament bubble, required prior to a quarterfinals matchup with Virginia, the sport's reigning national champion. Then before the Irish could take on the Cavaliers, the remainder of the ACC Tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the NCAA Tournament and the rest of winter and spring college athletics soon to follow. In an instant, Mooney's Fighting Irish career was finished without a real conclusion. "My college career ended very abruptly and not how we, as a group, wanted it to end," Mooney said. "I thought we were playing our best basketball towards the end of the season, and we were ready to make a run. But it happens, and obviously you want safety to come first. "As a group, we made amends. Certainly sitting down with TJ Gibbs and Rex Pflueger after that — the other two seniors on the team —we just looked back and enjoyed the four years that we had together. The bonds and the friendships that I made were priceless." But as Mooney processed his lost Mooney was the only player in Australia's NBL averaging a double-double as of late March, tallying 17.1 points and a league-leading 12.3 rebounds per game for the Perth Wildcats. PHOTO COURTESY PERTH WILDCATS John Mooney Is Thriving Down Under

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