Wednesday December 12, 2012Sydney Moss: Stepping Toward More Success
Sydney Moss (#40) listens to Coach Amanda Butler during a timeout.
Sydney Moss (#40) listens to Coach Amanda Butler during a timeout.
Yesterday she completed her last exam and closed the book on her first fall semester. She was just like the majority of college freshmen all of across the country, getting overwhelmed as an 18-year-old when they set foot on a college campus and enroll in classes. For Sydney Moss, coming to Gainesville last June was a big step, even though she was walking in as the 2012 Kentucky Gatorade Girls High School Basketball Player of the Year.
“First it was hard, trying to juggle classes in the summer and just lifting and getting my time managed to figure out when my schedule was open,” Moss explained, “but it helps me knowing I’m not the only one going through it and it has gotten better.”
After coming off of a prep career that included 2,997 points scored and 1,602 rebounds it may not seem like there is much for the 2012 Kentucky Miss Basketball to improve upon, but Moss knows her entire rookie season will be a challenge.
“With my game I worked on just getting quicker because I know the SEC is really up and down the floor and there are great guards in the SEC so improving my quickness and defense,” Moss said during the Gators’ final day of fall conditioning.
Moss was expected to become a factor for the Gators right from the start of the season on both sides of the ball and that she has been. Through the first 10 games of the season, the 5-foot-11 Moss leads Florida in assists (4.1 apg), while ranking second for scoring (11.0 ppg), rebounding (6.1 rpg) and steals (1.9 spg). On Monday she was named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week.
Moss’ versatility and complete game has given head coach Amanda Butler the option for playing her talented freshman as a three-guard who attacks opposing defenses by shooting and putting the ball on the floor, as opposed to having her back to the basket in the post like Moss did during the first three years of her high school career.
“I asked Coach Butler before I committed and signed what position they saw me playing and they said guard so I kind of knew what I was coming into,” Moss said. “I’ve been more of an attacking guard and I like that.”
A player like Moss who can be versatile on offense has kept defenses guessing on what she will do when the ball is in her hands. Listed as a guard/forward on the Florida roster, Moss gravitated early to upperclassmen Jaterra Bonds and Jennifer George during the preseason, thinking that if the Gators played as hard as they did during pickup games, she couldn’t wait to see how they played when facing opponents in game situations.
“Usually when you think of freshmen, you think fresh meat and you can pick on them and they aren’t going to say anything,” Moss shared. “But all of our freshmen are really tough.”
Coming into a Division I program as a freshman is a change for Moss, especially compared to last year when she was the main focus during her senior year of high school. The pressure of one school’s state title hopes are no longer fully on her shoulders, but that doesn’t mean she will go unnoticed.
“Coming in as a freshman you are kind of the baby of the team so I don’t have that pressure anymore. I already know that I am going to play so there is a little bit of pressure, but not that much compared to my senior year,” Moss explained.
After having watched the Gators take on undefeated and eventual national champion Baylor during the second round of last year’s NCAA Tournament in person, Moss got an up close look at the program that Butler is building in Gainesville. Few teams were able to keep pace with Baylor the way that the Gators did during their meeting at the end of last season and that impressed Moss.
Coming from a big family that includes a support system of her mother, four siblings, an aunt & uncle, cousins, and grandparents, a tightly knit group is something Moss is accustomed to so when the women’s basketball team and coaching staff gave her that same feeling on an unofficial visit Florida last year, she couldn’t see herself on any other college campus in the country.
The 12-hour drive that separates Gainesville and Moss’ hometown of Union, KY has been tough for the freshman to handle at times, but with video chatting, care packages and the ability to call any of her Gator teammates or coaches day or night has helped any homesickness fade quickly.
“It has been kind of hard, but my aunt lives in Jacksonville so they came down the second week I was here in the summer and they came down just to visit for a day and I got to see my aunt, my uncle and my cousin so I have some family close,” said Moss.
Moss also has a part of her family not far away with her Gator teammates and coaching staff being there for her around the clock and just a phone call away just as they said they would when they were recruiting her to Florida.
In addition to supporting her off the court, Moss’ Gator teammates have already helped make her stronger on the court. While facing a fast break during a summer pickup game and only Bonds separating Moss from the basket, she thought Bonds would let her by easily, but was surely mistaken.
“She tried to block me and I landed on my butt and slid and hit the padding on the basket pretty hard and the ball went in so I yelled “and one!”” explained Moss. “She plays aggressive all the time so that kind of woke me up and made me realize that they are going to be competitive all the time no matter what.”
A January 3 date with the Kentucky Wildcats in Lexington is big every year for the Gators as both teams will battle to finish atop the SEC’s Eastern Division. This time around will mean even more, as it will also be a homecoming for Moss whose hometown is not far from the Kentucky campus. With one month still remaining before the Gators tip-off the 2012-13 season, Moss is already getting requests from friends and family alike as they all want to know when the game is so they can see her donning the orange and blue.
With the culmination of an SEC “home” opener at Kentucky, a large portion of the Northern Kentucky region will be wanting to see Sydney Moss play college basketball. She expects the building to be packed. The game is expected to be a combination of fun, crazy and intense, exactly the kind of game that Moss came to Florida to play in as the Gators continue their rise to cement themselves among the SEC’s elite.
The Gators and Moss know the game is coming, but right now their only focus is to continue to improve. With 10 games under her belt and another four to be played between now and Florida’s SEC opener at seventh-ranked Kentucky, the Gators, who are the fifth-least experienced team in the country, will take it one game at a time, with Moss right there improving each game and taking steps toward looking less like a freshman each time.
By Andrew Piper, UF Communications Student