As the clock ticked down in overtime of the OVC Championship game last March, 19-year-old Jeffery Moss found himself in one of the biggest moments of his life.
The tall, lanky freshman was staring into the eyes of Belmont guard Kerron Johnson – a seasoned senior determined to finish his career with a fourth championship.
When the Bruins’ point guard made his move with five seconds to go, Moss was with him – through the top of the key, down the lane and all the way to the basket.
Johnson then stopped short of the rim and took a step back, giving him just enough room to drain the championship-winning basket which haunts Moss to this day.
“I still think about it now,” Moss said. “Every time I hit the floor it’s in the back of my mind. I feel like I took it the hardest because the winning basket was scored on me. I thought about it all summer, all preseason and I still think about it every day.”
Long before the battle with Belmont, however, Moss was a multi-sport star at Bob Jones High School in Madison, Ala. Not only did he lead the men’s basketball team to a state title in 2011, but Moss was also the quarterback for the Patriots’ football team which regularly ranked in the top five in the state.
As he began receiving interest from numerous colleges for his skills in both sports, Moss was faced with the difficult task of choosing between basketball and football.
It was Murray State Head Coach Steve Prohm who made the decision easier for Moss.
“From the first day I met Coach (Prohm), he made me feel like I was a part of the Murray State family,” Moss said. When I came up here on my visits I met a lot of great people and I enjoyed my time here. I just felt really comfortable and I knew I needed to come here and play basketball.”
Once Moss arrived on campus, it did not take long for the young freshman to make a name for himself. He sank his first shot – a deep 3 in the season opener – en route to an 11-point performance in his debut.
Throughout the season, Moss proved to be a valuable asset off the bench. He led all freshmen in nearly every statistic, averaging 21.4 minutes and 4.4 points per game.
When Johnson’s overtime basket ended the Racers’ season, it also ended the careers of star seniors Ed Daniel and Isaiah Canaan, leaving a gaping hole in the Racers’ lineup. Moss’ role dramatically increased in his sophomore season.
“When I went home for the summer I was really excited about my role for this upcoming season and it made me work out really hard,” Moss said. “When I came back up here for the summer I just worked even harder to try and take that next step and become a better player.”
When Moss returned in the fall he found himself in the Racers’ starting lineup.
It was not all smooth sailing, however, as Murray State got off to a 2-5 start.
Moss had his own struggles, too, slumping through the beginning of conference play.
Through the first five OVC games, Moss averaged 12.4 points per game and shot 19 percent from 3-point range.
“Those weeks were tough but we never got down about it,” Moss said. “We all knew to just take it in stride and that we’d use it as motivation later. I knew I just had to keep at it and work hard and my own game would get to where it needed to be.”
He broke the slump in dramatic fashion Jan. 23 against Tennessee Tech, sinking his first four shots from 3-point range. Moss finished with a career high 31 points and shot 7-9 from beyond the arc.
In the last three conference games, Moss has improved his performance, averaging 21.3 points per game while shooting a blazing 67 percent from the field. Moss is now the team’s second-leading scorer on the season, averaging more than 13 points per game.
“I’m basically living out my dream right now,” Moss said. “I’m just trying to have fun and savor every minute of it.”
As the Racers prepare for the season’s final eight games, they find themselves with a secure three-game lead in the OVC West.
Though many questioned this team during its rough start, Moss and the Racers seem to be improving when it matters most.
“I can’t wait,” Moss said. “I’m anxious to see what our future holds. We’re getting better every day and we’re shooting for our goals. We’re an exciting team and I’m excited to be a part of it.”
With Murray State and Belmont once again sitting atop the mid-season conference standings, it appears as if the two teams are destined for another championship showdown. While nothing is certain, Moss admitted he’d like to get another shot at the Bruins for the title.
It’s not a thirst for revenge, however, that fuels Moss. This year, he’s got something to prove.
Said Moss: “I hope I’m in that same position again this year because I know I’ll be able to make that stop this time around.”
Story by Jonathan Ferris, Staff writer