The 2017 NBA Draft is set for Thursday, June 22nd. As the stars of the college game get ready to find out where they will begin their NBA journey, CBS Local Sports’ “My Life As” series will give them an opportunity to talk about how they got to this point and what they expect from the future in their own words.
Today, we hear from Arkansas Razorbacks senior forward Moses Kingsley. Moses had an interesting path to get to this moment as he was born in Nigeria and moved to the US in 10th grade to pursue playing basketball and getting an education. Along the way, plenty of people helped him transition to life in the states and he discussed those stories and more when he spoke with us about his journey to the draft.
We played outside a lot back home in Nigeria when I was younger and my older brother came home from school one day and he told me that his friend thought it would be a good idea if I tried basketball, because I was getting taller than everybody else. The week after that, I went into town in Abuja with some of my friends and we were too shy to go to the courts because we saw all of the kids that were playing. We were too shy to go over there. So, we came back the week after that and just shot around a little bit.
I didn’t have any basketball shoes at the time so I had to go to the market. My dad gave me some money and I ended up buying New Balance shoes. I didn’t know what a basketball shoe was at the time, I thought that any shoe would work. When I went back to the court the next week, my coach looked at me like ‘what is this?’ I told him they were my basketball shoes and he responded with, ‘those aren’t basketball shoes, that’s a running shoe.’ I had to keep the shoes anyway, because in Nigeria it’s not like over here where you have a receipt and you can just return the shoes. There, most of the shops, if you buy something and step outside the store, it’s yours now. They won’t take it back. So, I played with those shoes for like a year before my mom gave me some money to go buy basketball shoes.
It was so hard to find my size (14 at the time) because most people don’t wear shoes that size and Nigeria isn’t a basketball country where the sport is dominant. The main sport there is soccer and there’s not a lot of people that require a shoe size bigger than size 13, so it was a little tight, but I played with it. It wasn’t until I went to a basketball camp put on by Masai Ujiri, who’s Nigerian, (current Toronto Raptors GM) that I got new shoes.
In 2010, the coach at New Albany High School in New Albany, Mississippi talked to some of my coaches in Nigeria and told them that they could get me an I-20 form in order to be able to come play basketball in the United States. As soon as my coaches told me about that chance, I took it. I wanted to further my education and the United States education system is so much more stable than the education system back in Nigeria.
I had a legal guardian in Mississippi that I was able to stay with during my time at New Albany and she really took care of me. I’m so appreciative of that, she really took care of me when I first came over to the states and I still talk to her to this day along with my host family that took care of me when I transferred for my senior year, Scott and Leslie Thomas and their two children. I’m so grateful to all of them for helping me adjust to life here. Really, everybody at New Albany High School helped me with my transition to this new culture, they were great to me.
I transferred to Huntington Prep, in West Virginia, for my senior year of high school because I felt like the competition in Mississippi wasn’t making me better. There weren’t any guys that were as big as me and I wanted to make sure I was improving my game because I was starting to get offers to play in college. At Huntington Prep, they had guys as big or bigger than me who I went against every day in practice. Not only that, but we had eight D-I players on that team my senior year and with players that talented, you know you’re going after each other every day in practice and that’s what makes you a better player.
The reason I chose to go to Arkansas is because I played for an AAU team in the area, Arkansas Wings Elite, alongside Bobby Portis who would go on to become my teammate with the Razorbacks. I just felt like I was familiar with the program because the coach for my AAU team was on the staff at Arkansas. It felt like a family to me because I knew a lot of the guys there already and that’s why I decided to go there over some of the other big schools that recruited me.
The best memories I have from my four years at Arkansas are from going to the NCAA Tournament. Especially this past year, with a bunch of new guys on the team, we started the season not really playing that well. But, we were able to start figuring things out later in the year and made the tournament and then won our first round game against Seton Hall before coming up just short against the eventual National Champion, North Carolina.
One of the big things that I’m focused on improving in my game as I go through this process of getting ready for the NBA Draft is the mid-range shot. Teams today, they value guys that don’t have to roll to the basket every time and can instead pop out and knock down a jump shot, so I’ve been working on improving that aspect of my game.
That said, I can’t forget what got me here. I’ve got to do what I always do and focus on making sure my conditioning is right. I’m a guy who plays with a lot of energy, rebounding, running the floor, and I have to make sure that I don’t go away from what got me here.
There are a couple of guys that I try to model my game after in the NBA right now. I watch a lot of Bismack Biyombo, of the Orlando Magic because he blocks shots, grabs rebounds and sets good screens. I like that style of play. Another guy is Clint Capela, of the Houston Rockets, because even though he doesn’t get a lot of attention for the role he plays, I feel like he plays a really good role for them. He’s not a guy that you depend on for scoring, but you depend on him for blocking shots, setting screens and rolling to the rim. Those are the kinds of things I feel I can bring to a team and want to continue to improve on as I play at the next level.
The fun part for me going through this process is getting better with every workout. Showing all of these teams that I know who I am as a player and what I can do has been a lot of fun for me. Also, getting to play with and against these other college athletes has been a lot of fun. In the coming months, I know I’m going to be playing with a lot of new people so it’s good to get used to doing that now.
My goal isn’t just to make it to the NBA. I want to have a long career in the league, hopefully 10, 12, or 14 years of playing in the NBA. But, it’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon. I know that I just have to keep working on my game and the more that I work on it the better that I’m going to get. For me, it’s not about just being able to say I played in the NBA. It’s about longevity and I know if I keep working on my game I can hopefully accomplish that goal.