At the start of the season, we asked you who would become Washington D.C.'s next big college basketball star. Two thousand, eight hundred and twenty-eight votes later, American's Vlad Moldoveanu came out on top with 42 percent of the vote, beating out Austin Freeman and Jordan Williams for the top honor. Certainly, some inspired ballot-stuffing by Eagles fans helped Moldoveanu win the poll, but as we hit the halfway point of the season, he's proven that he deserves to be in the discussion.
Last week, he was named National Player of the Week by the United States Basketball Writers Association thanks in large part to his 39-point, 12-rebound performance against Lehigh. His double-double helped the Eagles pick up a 82-75 win against the defending Patriot League champions in their first conference game of the season. The game also served as a bit of revenge for him and the rest of the team after Lehigh beat them three times last season, including a humbling 79-57 loss in the Patriot League semifinals where Moldoveanu was bogged down by Lehigh's oppressive defense and foul trouble as he scored a season-low two points.
Saturday's outburst was a testament to how Moldoveanu has developed his game since transferring to American. This season, he's adapted to the extra defensive attention that comes with being one of the top scorers in the nation. Critics can point out that he is putting up these gaudy numbers against lesser competition, but neither Jordan Williams or Austin Freeman have to carry as much of the burden as he does.
Moldoveanu is succeeding while carrying the heaviest scoring burden in the NCAA. He's taken 37.8 percent of American's shots while he's on the floor, which leads the nation. To give you an idea of how just how much of a responsibility that is, here's a list of some notable players who took a lower percentage of their team's shots over the past few years:
- Kemba Walker
- Jimmer Fredette
- Stephen Curry
- Luke Harangody
- Michael Beasley
- Kevin Durant
- Adam Morrison
- Bonzi Wells
- Marcus Fizer
- Keith Van Horn
(And for those of you wondering, yes, he takes a higher percentage of shots than George Washington legend SirValiant Brown did in 1999-00.)
Moldoveanu is basically handling the scoring load of two players while he's on the floor. Yet even though he's being asked to shoot more than anyone else in the nation, he's become more efficient this season. He's making more three pointers, shooting a better percentage from the field, drawing more fouls and committing less turnovers than he did last season. In a situation where players typically get less efficient, Moldoveanu has gotten better with extra touches this season.
He's also not freezing out the rest of the team while he's putting up his shots. He averages almost two assists per game, which isn't bad for a power forward. More importantly, he's not disrupting the flow of the offense with contested shots. American is in top 50 nationally in assists per game, assist/turnover ratio and assist percentage; something that would be impossible if Moldoveanu was freelancing to get his shots. By sticking with the flow of the offense it keeps the rest of the Eagles on their toes, since they still have to play their part in the offense, which keeps them more mentally active on both sides of the ball.
In a vacuum, Jordan Williams and Austin Freeman are both probably better players than Vlad Moldoveanu. But when it comes to production on the court, Vlad Moldoveanu has earned the right to be in the discussion. No one in the area has meant more to his team's success this season.