Of the many great Missouri State men’s basketball players I’ve been privileged to watch over the last half-century, no one has displayed such a dazzling array of shot-making as Isiaih Mosley.
Mid-range, 3-pointers, floaters, step-backs, scoops, fadeaways and free throws. Mosley can do it all and he does it well.
“He’s literally a walking bucket,” Bears’ coach Dana Ford said of his 6-foot-5 junior guard.
A five-game stretch in January opened the college basketball nation’s eyes to Mosley after he had games of 43, 33, 32, 24 and 40 points. It was jaw-dropping to watch as Mosley made 60 of 96 field goal attempts and 37 of 42 free throws.
In the game before Basketpalooza began, Mosley’s cold-blooded, buzzer-beating 3-pointer beat Bradley on the road. The Bears won five of those six games to establish themselves as a Valley contender, eventually finishing in a three-way tie for second. They will be the No. 2 seed at the Valley Tournament, beginning play at 6 p.m. Friday in St. Louis.
The Isiaih Mosley file
Name: Isiaih Mosley
Weight: 201 pounds
Hometown: Columbia, Missouri
Major: Organizational Communication
Family: Son of Leanna Douglas of Columbia; has a brother, Stephfon and a sister, Cherokee
This season: Mosley has set a Missouri State record for points in a conference season with 377, points at JQH Arena in a season with 294 and scoring average at JQH Arena in a season at 20.4. His 21.0 scoring average in league play leads all Valley players and he’s tied the program record with six games of 30 or more points in a season.
Mosley is on pace to become Missouri State’s career scoring leader before he’s finished. That assumes continued good health, of course, and a return next season. In this day and age of the transfer portal, you just never know what might happen if major-conference schools come calling. But that worry can be saved for after this season’s shot-making ends.
Mosley has 1,361 career points after scoring 20 as the Bears concluded their regular season with an 88-79 victory on Saturday at Evansville. That leaves him 614 away from Daryel Garrison as the top scorer in program history. Mosley has 619 points this season and at least one game remaining, meaning Garrison’s 46-year-old record could fall one year from now.
So a question I’ve received — by being around a long time I sometimes get such queries — is where does Mosley rank among best players in Missouri State history?
My answer: He’s in the discussion.
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Two players stand out above all. Curtis Perry was a powerhouse big man in the late 1960s, leading the Bears to a pair of NCAA Division II national runner-up finishes. Perry is third on the career scoring list with 1,835 points and is No. 1 in rebounds with 1,424 (a whopping 300 more than anyone else).
Winston Garland was a do-everything guard who helped establish the school as a legitimate Division I program. A junior college transfer, Garland led the Bears to their first NCAA Tournament in 1987, where they beat Clemson before losing to Kansas, and averaged 18.9 points in his career.
Both Perry and Garland went on to play a combined 15 seasons in the National Basketball Association. They were great all-around players, who made their teammates better, and rank 1-2 on the list of all-time great Bears and either order would be correct.
Garrison isn’t far behind. He lit up McDonald Arena with his scoring ability from 1971-75 in an era prior to the 3-point shot. His scoring record would be impossible to touch had the 3-pointer been in play during his era.
Garrison also was a big winner, helping the Bears march to a NCAA D-II national runner-up finish in 1974. His jersey No. 32 hangs in the JQH Arena rafters, along with Garland’s No. 22 and Perry’s No. 54, a trio of Bears’ basketball royalty.
Those three have another important quality in common: They won conference championships and led their teams into postseason play. So did Kyle Weems, No. 2 on the career scoring list, as he led the Bears to their lone MVC regular-season title, in 2011.
Leading Bears to Valley title key to Mosley’s legacy
In order to be considered one of the all-time greats, winning a ring elevates the good to great. Mosley has the opportunity to take that giant leap this weekend at Arch Madness, where the Bears seek their first Valley Tournament title in 30 years.
Mosley will need to be at his best and that doesn’t necessarily mean scoring 40. Coach Dana Ford pointed out Mosley’s 11 rebounds in last week’s home victory over Bradley as being nearly as important as his 33 points.
Ford said when Mosley rebounds, it’s a sign he’s fully engaged in all aspects of his game. Six times this season, including a recent big game at Northern Iowa, Mosley was barely visible as he failed to score in double digits.
Was it defensive genius by opponents taking Mosley out of the game? Surely that is part of it, though Ford has said more than once this season that the only person who can stop Mosley is Mosley himself.
Asked after the recent Bradley game about when he knows he’s locked and loaded for a big night, Mosley said “it’s a mindset thing.”
“I just want to stay aggressive and play as hard as I can for my teammates and they give me all the confidence in the world,” Mosley added. “When my teammates are on me, telling me to keep being aggressive, that’s when it kind of clicks.”
Hopefully Mosley’s teammates, like Gaige Prim and his long-time friend Ja’Monta Black, will be in his ear and firing him up this week. If Mosley is able to click for three days in St. Louis, the Bears and their fans could be celebrating about 3 p.m. Sunday with their first NCAA Tournament berth in 23 years.
And if that happens, Mosley will cement his status as one of the iconic Bears to wear the school’s uniform.
The sports week ahead
Missouri State (22-9) opens play at the Missouri Valley Conference basketball tournament at Enterprise Center in St. Louis at 6 p.m. Friday. The second-seeded Bears will play the winner of Thursday’s play-in game between Valparaiso and Evansville. A Friday win sends the Bears to a 5 p.m. Saturday semifinal against either Drake or Southern Illinois. The title game is 1 p.m. Sunday on CBS. If you can’t attend, the games will be televised on Bally Sports Midwest (Friday), CBS Sports Network (Saturday) and CBS (Sunday).
- The Missouri State Lady Bears (22-5) take a seven-game winning streak on the road to finish the regular season. They face Valparaiso at 6 p.m. Thursday and Loyola at 1 p.m. Saturday. Missouri State is one game behind Southern Illinois in the Valley regular-season race.
- Postseason play arrives for the Drury teams. The Lady Panthers (27-4), ranked ninth in NCAA Division II, plays host to William Jewell (1-24) at 6 p.m. Monday to open the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament. The Drury men (10-15) travel to Missouri-St. Louis (20-6) to open GLVC tourney play on Monday. Opening-round winners for the men and women advance to Edwardsville, Illinois for the quarterfinals, beginning on Thursday.
- It’s been a great season for Evangel men’s basketball. The Valor (22-8) play for the Heart of America Athletic Conference tourney title at 7 p.m. Monday at William Penn (29-1) in Oskaloosa, Iowa. Both teams have qualified for the NAIA National Tournament, in Kansas City in mid-March.
- Delayed a week by the weather, the forecast appears favorable for Missouri State’s baseball team to open its home schedule at Hammons Field. The Bears play host to Indiana at 3 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.
- Drury’s baseball team continues a season-opening homestand with a weekend series against Missouri S&T at US Baseball Park in Ozark. Game times are 4 p.m. Friday, noon Saturday for a doubleheader and noon Sunday.