Instincts carry Moody to prolific sophomore season


Photo: Huiling Wu/Iowa State Daily

Nikki Moody gets ready to pass the ball during the 66-51 loss against No. 1 Baylor. Moody finished the game making only one of her 10 shots. She added five assists but had 10 turnovers. 

Dylan Montz

The instinct has always been there for Nikki Moody.

Since her days at Trinity High School in Euless, Texas, the 5-foot-8 ISU sophomore point guard has worked to get the assist just as much, if not more, than scoring herself. Looking for the open player is something she feels has come easier to her than other aspects of her game.

“Whenever I feel like more than one person is on me, I feel like somebody is open somewhere,” Moody said. “So in my mind, I know somebody is somewhere so they can get [the ball].”

Moody currently ranks third nationally in assists per game with 7.6. The No. 24 Cyclones are also 16th nationally with 16.7 assists per game as a team.

Sharing the ball is something Iowa State has excelled in all season long, and it starts with Moody.

When Iowa State was recruiting Moody, who was born in Des Moines, she was invited to a camp Iowa State hosted the summer before her senior year of high school. What impressed ISU coach Bill Fennelly about her was her quickness with the ball and a certain “edge” she brought to the court.

Knowing she played in a “great league” in Texas at Trinity High School and averaged 18.1 points, 4.8 assists and 4.2 rebounds as a senior, Fennelly offered Moody a scholarship after the summer camp. After some thought, Moody accepted the offer.

“I think she felt comfortable here and she knew that there was going to be playing time available and for a lot of people, that’s a big deal,” Fennelly said. “And she knew we were going to need that [point guard] position. Recruiting is so much about things falling into the right place at the right time and sometimes, there’s no rhyme or reason to how it happens.”

Last season as a freshman, Moody had the benefit of having former ISU guards Lauren Mansfield and Chassidy Cole on each side of her to give her support in the backcourt. The learning curve of going from high school to college isn’t just on the court during games, but on the practice court, in the classroom and in a person’s life outside of school and basketball.

Teammate and junior forward Hallie Christofferson recognized how beneficial having Mansfield and Cole was to Moody during last season.

“When you’re a freshman, you don’t really know what to expect and you go from high school and AAU [to college ball],” Christofferson said. “Texas [high school basketball] is probably different than Iowa but it’s still going to be a big challenge. This year, she’s made so much improvement.”

Although Moody’s season was a success as an individual — she broke the ISU freshman assist record with 133 — there were times when she would get down or upset and detached somewhat from the team. Fennelly believes most freshmen experience the same type of feelings at some point during their inaugural season.

“There’s always an element of trust involved,” Fennelly said. “At what point do the players trust the coaches, do the coaches trust the players, and do the players trust each other? That’s a three-pronged thing that we talk about here all the time. It’s taken Nikki a little while, which it normally does for people, to develop that trust.

“She’s got it now and I think she’s playing at a really high level.”

The biggest difference Christofferson has seen in Moody from last season to this one is her maturity on the court. As every good point guard does, Christofferson mentioned how well Moody knows not only the point guard position, but all the other ones on the court as well.

Moody’s court sense and leadership is something that has blossomed even more so in the last season.

“She’s more comfortable on the floor, she’s more vocal and just growing as a person,” Christofferson said. “She’s just become somebody that you look to get the ball in their hands. You want her to have the ball down the stretch because you know she will make good decisions.”

In Moody’s last two games combined — at Texas and at home against Kansas State — she has tallied 24 points, 20 assists and a mere three turnovers. With the skill players Iowa State has on the floor at all times, Moody has to do just one thing.

“Attack,” Moody said. “The more I attack, the more I draw people towards me, which makes it easier to kick to an open player.”

Even though Iowa State possesses capable shooters on the outside and post players on the inside, Moody’s willingness to accept her role of attacking the lane makes her perhaps the most dangerous offensive threat for the Cyclones.

“Some say she might be the only ball-handler on our team so you want to have the ball in her hands so she can get into the lane and dish to other people,” Christofferson said. “It just helps to have someone that can control the ball as well as she can.”