FAYETTEVILLE – Respectively growing up in Arkansas and Texas, Moses Moody and Cade Cunningham never would have expected their lives intersecting as mutual junior and senior basketball star roommates at Montverde (Fla.) Academy.
Saturday in Stillwater, Okla. they intersect as opposing stars of the 3 p.m. ESPN2 televised Arkansas Razorbacks, 13-4 vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys, 10-4, SEC vs. Big 12 Challenge at OSU’s Gallagher-Iba Arena and Eddie Sutton Court.
It marks among Saturday’s five SEC vs. Big 12 Challenge games.
In Stillwater, Saturday’s game Arkansas-Oklahoma State intersects Sutton, the late OSU alum and recently elected Naismith Hall of Fame coach of both the Razorbacks, (1974-85) with Arkansas’ men’s practice court named Eddie Sutton Court, and Oklahoma State (1990-2006) He will be memorialized before Saturday’s tip-off. So will the 10, including two players, support staff and pilots, killed when one of OSU’s planes crashed returning from a 2001 Big 12 game at Colorado.
“I think it’s two programs he had such impact on,”Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman said. “Obviously our practice court is named after him now. I think it’s two good basketball teams playing each other and to have Coach Sutton’s memory be a part of the game I think is really, really appropriate. I’m sure to the fan bases both Oklahoma State and Arkansas it will mean a lot.”
As for Moody and Cunningham, they’ve communicated this week as their upcoming reunion approaches from opposite sides.
“Yeah, I talked to him a couple of days ago,” Moody said Thursday via Zoom press conference. “But it was just like off basketball stuff, really and just said ‘See you.’ Nothing special.”
They do share a “very close”special bond with Moody, after playing ninth grade at Little Rock Parkview and sophomore for state champion North Little Rock, and Cunningham starring in Arlington, Texas both seeking to further their careers at fabled Montverde in Florida.
Both realized the sacrifice made from being local high school stars to cogs in Montverde’s machine.
“He was MVP, so he averaged like 25 a game,” Moody said. “But then coming to Montverde, playing with the team we had, ended up he was averaging like 11 or 12 a game. I did too. We were just able to like just find a way to win, and that’s what it was, just sacrificing for the greater good of the team.”
That’s basically what Moody, scoring 26 two games ago in the 92-71 SEC victory over Vanderbilt, did not forcing it after a poor shooting start, and scoring just five points while teammates JD Notae, Devo Davis and Justin Smith assumed the scoring load in Wednesday’s 74-59 SEC success over Ole Miss.
“My game is just in the flow of the game,” Moody said. “So sometimes it doesn’t go that way. So just still do what you’ve got to do to come out with a win and that’s what we did.”
Exactly, Musselman said.
“Even though it was an off night for him he helped as a decoy for us,” Musselman said. “He changes the geometry on the floor for us. He’s such a focal point for us he opens up the game for everybody else.”
While Moody obviously will be primed to be more of a tangible force Saturday, Cunningham in part will be happy just to play.
The versatile 6-8 guard missed the last two games because of covid-19 protocol. However since he attended last Monday’s OSU victory over Iowa State, the Cowboys most recent game, it’s assumed Cunningham plays against the Hogs.
“Obviously Cade Cunningham, a special, special talent,” Musselman said. “His court vision, his strength, his size, his ability to shoot the 3-ball. His post-up game. He’s one of the great passers in transition to get the ball to people. You are talking about two really special basketball players.”
The others of Coach Mike Boynton’s Cowboys aren’t as special as Cunningham, but they’re pretty good, too.
“I really like their team,” Musselman said. “They have great length. Obviously Cade at his size at the point guard and then (Isaac) Likekele, he was the point guard last year. He (Likekele leads then team in rebounds and assists. That doesn’t happen very often.”
Musselman also cited OSU sixth man Rondel Walker that Musselman tried hard ton recruit just as Boynton tried acrd to recruit Razorback freshman guard Davonte “Devo” Davis out of Jacksonville.
Musselman said Thursday’s training room resembled a MASH unit from Wednesday’s physical games against Ole Miss.
Forward Justin Smith, four games back from ankle surgery absenting him four games from his Dec. 30 injury at Auburn, was withheld from Thursday’s practice.
Starting point guard Jalen Tate spent Thursday at the dentist after an unfortunately toothy collision against Ole Miss.
F-Justin Smith 6-7 Sr. 10.8 pts. 6.4 rebs.
C-Connor Vanover 7-3 So. 7.1 5.7
G-Jalen Tate 6-6 Sr. 11.4 3.9
G-Moses Moody 6-6 Fr. 16.6 5.6
G-Desi Sills 6-1 Jr. 11.5 3.5
OKLAHOMA STATE (10-4)
F-Kalib Boone 6-9 Fr. 8.3 pts. 4.3 rebs.
G-Cade Cunningham 6-8 Fr. 17.8 6.2
G-Isaac Likekele 6-5 Jr. 11.5 7.7
G-Avery Anderson 6-3 So. 9.2 3.7
G-Bryce Williams 6-2 Sr. 8.3 2.2