Blue and Gold Illustrated

May 2021 Issue

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

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Page 42 of 47 MAY 2021 43 IRISH IN THE PROS opportunities, it was also time to take stock of his basketball future. He returned to his family home near Orlando, Fla., and linked up with his trainer, Darryl Hardin. "I was in the gym with him ev- ery day," Mooney said. "Fortunately, we had gym access. We were get- ting reps in and I had a chance to play some scrimmages down there in Central Florida. It was just a matter of staying in shape, and being ready when my time came." The next step in the process was to find representation. He signed with Adam Pensack, co-owner of the bas- ketball agency Pensack Sports (for- mer Notre Dame center Jack Cooley is also a client). Pensack also represents former Providence guard and current Perth Wildcat Bryce Cotton. "There was already a good re- lationship between the coaching staff and my agent," Mooney said. "Things just kind of worked out, and honestly, I wouldn't trade this expe- rience that I'm going through right now for anything. It's been awesome. "The coaching staff is great; the guys are great. I really think I'm be- coming a better basketball player over here." NBL FAVORITES On the court, the structure of pro- fessional basketball in Australia is similar to the college game, with a few differences. The NBL follows the rules created by the International Basketball Fed- eration, which includes 10-minute quarters and a 24-second shot clock. It has a 28-game regular season, plus an extra eight games as part of the inaugural NBL Cup. Taking place mid-season, the cup is billed as a month-long "basketball extravaganza" with the majority of the games held in Melbourne's John Cain Arena. The Wildcats were actu- ally the inaugural winners with a 7-1 NBL Cup record, earning the team $300,000 in prize money. Through March 31, Perth's 13-4 re- cord led the NBL, which was hardly a surprise. Even before the addition of "Mr. Double-Double," the Wildcats were the premier franchise of the 42-year- old NBL. They've won a league-best 10 championships, including five of the last seven under the leadership of current head coach Trevor Gleeson. "He's one of the best that this league has ever seen," Mooney said. "There's a reason for that. He expects a lot out of his players." Going forward, the Wildcats will also receive a major boost from its loyal fan base. The NBL recently reinstated its in-person attendance policy. Boasting a 14,800-person capacity, Perth's RAC Arena is the second-largest stadium in the league. Known as the "Red Army," Wildcat fans are as rabid as they come. "The Australian people love bas- ketball, and it's a growing game," Mooney said. "The NBL is one of the most popular, if not the most popu- lar, sports league over here. The fans are nuts. Perth is one of the best en- vironments I've played in." At the end of the regular season, the four teams with the best records will earn spots in the NBL Finals. This two-round tournament consists of a best-of-three semifinals and a best-of-five Grand Finals. Halfway through the regular sea- son, the Wildcats are the odds-on fa- vorite to repeat as champions. "My ultimate goal is to play in the NBA one day," Mooney said. "But right now, I'm going to just try to do my job here and help my team win. We have a goal to win a championship here. "That's first and foremost, and then I'll revisit playing in the States after this year." ✦ NFL Free Agency Update NFL free agency officially began at 4 p.m. ET on March 17, which sparked several new deals and teams for numerous former Notre Dame players. RE-SIGNED • Alex Bars (2014-18), OL, Chicago Bears: Inked a one-year, $850,000 contract to remain in the Windy City. • J.J. Jansen (2004-07), LS, Carolina Pan- thers: Signed a one-year, $1,212,500 deal (league minimum) to remain in Charlotte. • Romeo Okwara (2012-15), DE, Detroit Li- ons: Inked a three-year, $39 million deal to remain in Detroit. • CJ Prosise (2012-15), RB, Tampa Bay Buc- caneers: Was released from the Bucs' practice squad a few days before their Super Bowl LV victory, but then was re-signed by Tampa Bay in the offseason. ON THE MOVE • Matthias Farley (2011-15), DB, Tennessee Titans: After two seasons with the New York Jets, signed a one-year deal with the Titans. • Will Fuller V (2013-15), WR, Miami Dol- phins: After an injury-plagued five years with the Texans, signed a one-year, $10.6 million contract with Miami. • Nick Martin (2011-15), OL, Las Vegas Raiders: Was waived by the Texans after five years in Houston and signed a one-year deal with the Raiders. • Isaac Rochell (2013-16), DE, Indianapolis Colts: Spent his first six seasons with the Chargers before signing a one-year, $2.5 million deal with the Colts. • Kyle Rudolph (2008-10), TE, New York Giants: After 10 years in Minnesota, inked a two-year, $12 million contract with the Giants. NOTABLE FREE AGENTS As of March 31 • Golden Tate (2007-09), WR: Spent the 2019 and 2020 seasons with the New York Giants. • Sheldon Day (2012-15), DL: Played for both the Indianapolis Colts and Cleveland Browns this past season. — Andrew Mentock Defensive end Romeo Okwara, who notched a career-high 10 sacks in 2020, earned a three-year, $39 million deal to remain with the Detroit Lions. PHOTO COURTESY DETROIT LIONS

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