Freshman forward is rebounding, blocking shots for Rams.
By: Joe Manganiello
BROOKLYN — Mo Alie-Cox is strikingly large.
He’s so big that basketball writers confuse him for an NFL football prospect.
One does not merely shake hands with Mo Alie-Cox; his hands swallow averaged-sized people hands like a hungry person devours warm dinner.
When a basketball is floating in the air around Mo Alie-Cox, it’s not a matter of if he grabs the ball, but when he is going to snap the ball out of the sky with his man-hands and ginormous arms.
In short, Mo Alie-Cox is a talented, physical basketball player. But it’s his long-term potential that has people around Alie-Cox buzzing.
“Mo was terrific,” head coach Shaka Smart said during the Atlantic 10 tournament. “He was realizing how good he can be, and I think he’s opening his eyes and seeing [he] can play very, very effectively against these guys. He changed a lot of plays around the basket, changed a lot of plays against Kendall Anthony [in the Richmond game]. He’s credited for blocks, but he changed so many more, and I thought he did a terrific job on the glass, as well.”
“He’s playing great,” junior Treveon Graham said. “He defends the basket well. For him to block shots like that is amazing and then, rebounding wise, he’s a monster on the boards when he wants to be. When he brings [that] type of aggressiveness, he’s real effective on the court.”
Having the confidence of Smart and teammates is reason enough to be optimistic about Alie-Cox – both on and off the floor. It’s with that in mind that it is more difficult to remember Alie-Cox’s time at VCU was once in question.
In October 2012, the NCAA deemed Alie-Cox academically ineligible. He was not allowed to compete with the team, including practice or sit on the bench during games.
Smart said at the time that “Mo has begun his academic career at VCU in an exemplary way,” and that the long term development, on and off the court, of Alie-Cox and Jordan Burgess, who was also ruled academically ineligible for the 2012-13 season, “remains our primary focus.”
With all credit to VCU, and most importantly to the two young men, there has not been a blip on the radar. And so moments like this weekend’s Atlantic 10 tournament – where Alie-Cox played at least 17 minutes in each game, blocking a pair of shots each night, and averaging about 7 points and 7 rebounds per game – are possible.
As the Rams push onward this spring, it’s evident Alie-Cox has an important role to play. He might already be their best interior defender, and his size frustrates drivers on the other team; he was disrupting the timing of floaters and shots inside of eight feet all weekend.
Following the loss to St. Joseph’s on Sunday, Alie Cox said, “We need to stay poised when we are down. [We need to] do a better job of fighting back.”
The freshman figures to be at the forefront of that, this season and beyond.
Joe Manganiello (@JoeMags_hoops) is a staff writer for pickinsplinters.com. He was published in the 2013-14 USA Today Sports College Basketball Preview. Peace, love, recycle and ball.