This past Wednesday, former Red Raider basketball guard Matt Mooney signed an exhibit 10 contract with the Memphis Grizzlies. An exhibit 10 contract is a one-year deal worth the minimum salary.
This signing, of course, is a huge accomplishment for the former all-Big 12 hero of Texas Tech. When looking at the bigger picture, however, this is also a big-time accomplishment for Coach Beard and the Red Raider basketball program.
Prior to the Chris Beard era, Tech was not known for producing NBA talent. In fact, Tech struggled to consistently produce tournament-bound teams. It is undeniable that this has changed under Coach Beard, as Tech has boasted a winning percentage above .500 in each of his first three years, including two deep March Madness runs, and produced four NBA players in Zhaire Smith, Keenan Evans, Jarret Culver and now, Matt Mooney. With that, the Red Raider Basketball program has seen a quicker rise in the college basketball ranks than any other program in the last two years.
The Grizzlies signing Mooney, who was a grad transfer from the University of South Dakota, will add to the national upbringing of the Red Raider basketball program as other grad transfers will see Tech as a symbol of opportunity and hope.
At South Dakota, Mooney was a talented player as he was named to the First-Team All-Summit League in his two years there. While his per game averages dropped at Tech, his stock rose due to the growth of exposure and the coaching of Chris Beard and assistant coach Mark Adams.
With the Big 12 rivaling the Atlantic Coast Conference for the most talented college basketball conference of the decade, the platform for players to build their stock is enormous.
This immense exposure can make or break a player as they are going toe-to-toe with some of the best talent in college basketball. Mooney took full advantage of that as he was able to hold his own offensively with slick playmaking and consistent three-point shooting and dominated defensively as he became one of the best defensive guards in all of college basketball.
This is due, in large part, to Coach Beard and Coach Adams and the culture they established in the basketball program. Under the two coaches, Mooney learned from the team-oriented, hardworking culture.
This led to his growth as he looked to pass more than he did at South Dakota under Coach Beard’s motion offense and learned to play off-ball which allowed him to grow as a catch-and-shoot player.
Additionally, the defensive-minded culture that Coach Adams established caused Mooney to evolve from a respectful defender in a mid-major conference to a game changing defender in the Big 12. Mooney’s improvement in these three areas opened the eyes of NBA scouts and front offices as passing, shooting and defending are the three most crucial abilities in the NBA today.
Tech’s appearance in the tournament extended and raised the exposure for Mooney, who once again took full advantage of the spotlight, being named to the Final Four All-Tournament Team.
Mooney earned this accolade with two clutch performances, most notably against Michigan State. This undoubtedly skyrocketed Mooney’s stock as an NBA player as hundreds of scouts attend and watch the Final Four.
Before he arrived in Lubbock, Mooney’s chances at making a NBA roster were slim to none. With the guidance and exposure of the Red Raider basketball program, his stock rose, allowing for his new contract with the Memphis Grizzlies. His journey will act as an example of why Tech is a great destination for other grad transfers.
Under Coach Beard and Coach Adams, players can grow in key areas that NBA front offices look for while playing in arguably the best conference in college basketball under a team who has made a deep run in March Madness in back-to-back years.
With the grad transfer market becoming a key part of the success of college basketball programs, this will add to the quick rise of Red Raider basketball. Grad transfers will see opportunity and hope with Coach Beard and Tech as their chances of making an NBA roster will rise with the basketball program from West Texas.