If my email inbox is any judge, the story of the last couple of weeks in the NBA is Jamario Moon.
And there are times he changes games. It's fun to watch.
Jamario Moon will be earning just $427,000 next season. It's only been 10 games, I know, I know. But if he was a free agent today, you don't think someone throws him four years and $12-million? His numbers in eight games as a starter: 9.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and 1.4 steals. Right now Moon is sixth among rookies in scoring and second in rebounding, blocks and steals.
Dan Wetzel and Don Yaeger first published "Sole Influence: Basketball, Corporate Greed, and the Corruption of America's Youth" in 2000.
It's wall-to-wall stories about the many psycho things that happen in the world of basketball recruiting and sneaker wars. Plenty of current NBA figures (everyone from Sonny Vaccaro to Lamar Odom) pop up in the book.
One of the stranger passages concerns Jamario Moon's visit to the private North Carolina high school that gave us Tracy McGrady.
Mt. Zion's coach at the time, Joel Hopkins, comes under a lot of fire in that book (and various articles, like this one which also features Jarrett Jack).
In the book, the player Tony Bobbitt says he opted not to go to Mt. Zion because Hopkins offered to fix his test scores, criticized his previous coach, and made him worry that he might not be able to pick which college he went to. Is that true? The authors were unable to confirm the stories.
Moon never went to the school, but as the book tells, he did visit then-coach Hopkins, who sold him on the idea that Moon could go straight to the NBA like McGrady had. "And if the NBA didn't work out immediately, Moon says Hopkins assured him his academic transcript would be in line to receive a scholarship. 'They said I didn't have to worry about academics,' Moon said. 'You had to go to class but you didn't have to worry about no grades.'"
Moon visited at first with his mother and grandmother, but then somehow got roped into staying longer, and did not like at all that he and the other basketball players were kept "on lockdown," far from the head coach's mansion, at all hours of the day and night.
Moon roomed with Steven Hunter, and got in trouble for bringing in a CD player. (Rap music is banned.) Phone calls were not allowed, and straying away from the assistant coaches on hand is also, reportedly, forbidden. Moon says he got really crazy at one point and defied the rules by sneaking across the street to McDonald's.
"They don't want you do to do nothing," Moon is quoted as saying in "Sole Influence." "They just want to control you."
Moon eventually left, and signed a letter of intent to attend Mississippi State, although he did not get the grades to make the team. He ended up on a basketball odyssey that took him to play for a long list of teams that include Meridian Community College, the Rome Gladiators, the Albany Patroons, the Huntsville Flight, the Kentucky Colonels, the Dodge City Legend, Fuerza Regia, the Gary Steelheads.
It's one of a million stories about players underprepared to make good career decisions and overexposed to the those eager to exploit them. It's also one of a million stories about someone whose first, second, third, fourth, and fifth attempts to make it in basketball all fell short. But now? It's that one-in-a-million such story that is well on its way to a happy ending.