After a 54-37 win over Holy Cross Regional School this past Thursday, the Chiefs at Carlisle School (Martinsville, VA) have finished the regular season with a very solid 14-8 record. Personally, I’ve always deemed the program as another noteworthy one in a state full of talented teams. I can trace back to my senior year of high school in 2014 when I watched Carlisle win the VISAA Division II state title, led by their dominant big man and current Detroit Pistons forward, Thon Maker. Now, the Chiefs compete in the Division III classification of VISAA and got back into their winning ways again last winter after struggling a bit back in the 2016-17 year. They finished the 2017-18 season as Division II champions in the Virginia Independent Conference (VIC) and made another run in the state tournament to the semifinals. Tomorrow (2/19), they’ll once again head into the conference tournament and it looks promising for them to take home the gold once again. In regards to states, Carlisle currently ranks as #6 in VISAA Division III. For them to again fight for a chance in winning the entire thing, they’ll definitely rely on some veteran experience, led by one of the senior captains, Moses Nuangki ’19. He’s only been a resident of Virginia for two years, but has seen a big step-up acting as a leader and learning to adjust to life on the East Coast and away from home.
The win against Holy Cross last week also happened to be Senior Day for the Chiefs. Nuangki returned to the active lineup after briefly missing some time with an injury. The 6’3” guard took the floor and didn’t show a missed beat in his step, as he posted a remarkable stat line of 22 points, six rebounds, and two assists. Rest assured, he’s back; both healthy and ready to lead his team through the challenging postseason.
“Yeah, I just had a strained Achilles that the doctors had to check out,” Nuangki explained. “It only kept me out for two games; nothing too bad. I feel 100 % now after our last game. I’ve been treating it the entire week by icing, stretching, and going to therapy every day after school.”
I’m sure the rest of the Carlisle crew shares a similar feeling of satisfaction to have Nuangki back out there on the hardwood for these upcoming playoff games. Head coach Brandon Smith has several words of praise when discussing his senior player.
“Moses has been a two year starter for our program. Last year, he was an intricate part of the success we had making a run in the VISAA D3 state tournament. He helped lead us to a 24-8 record in 2017-2018 and the VIC D2 conference champions. As a senior, Moses has taken on more of a leadership role and increased his productivity on the court. He’s averaging 17 points per game, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game, and shooting 75% from the line. Moses is also a presence defensively by averaging 1.7 steals per game. I love the fact that Moses is a high character young man and very respectful. He is able to take constructive criticism and is coachable. Moses has had to grow up fast due to being away from home for almost two years. He came to us as an international student from Australia. So, it has taught him to be more self-sufficient and accountable than most players his age. We’re looking forward to what the future holds for Moses and have been excited for him thus far. He will have a lot options to continue his academic and basketball career at the collegiate level.”
While he definitely appreciates the individual praise, Nuangki also contains a trait of unselfishness that puts the team first before any personal recognition. Right now, he’s solely focused on doing anything required for Carlisle to make their way into the big dance.
“We struggled early on in the season by losing some games that we probably shouldn’t have but learned from our mistakes and built a strong chemistry. Now, we’re looking better every time we play, which has been good. I think we’re going to do better in the postseason compared to the regular-season.”
In their playoff-preparation, the Chiefs have also made sure to turn their focus towards sharpening up some specific areas on the floor. As I’ve noted before in past articles, this time of the year becomes a stretch where teams must begin to play their best basketball and show a full focus. A simple slip-up can cost an entire game. Sounds pretty blunt, but I’ve seen it occur way too many times. Carlisle has me confident that they won’t have a problem with attention-to-detail in games, however, especially with a strong staff coaching them up in practice every day.
“Lately, we’ve been paying the most attention to rebounding and pushing the ball without committing turnovers. We had about four new players that came in this year, which made it a little difficult building our chemistry in the beginning and turnovers happened because of that. So, we’ve been just trying to get rid of that problem completely.”
Pushing the ball up the floor definitely appears as a main strength of Nuangki, as his lengthy frame gives him more of a physical advantage than the average high school combo guard. He can score in a number of crafty ways around the rim with either hand and excels absolutely well in transition by getting defenders on their heels. Once he gets an open lane while driving downhill, it’s pretty much settled that he’ll put two points on the board (or possibly an AND-1). I’ve always liked watching guards with impressive size run an offense, as they can provide plenty of mismatches and survey the floor a bit easier than that of a smaller point guard. When observing Nuangki’s versatility, one can see that he’s done excellent in combining both his physical traits and skill together to become a difficult matchup.
“More than anything, Coach (Smith) wants me to be the best leader I can for our team; helping pick our guys up. If other teams sag off of me, I look to score. If they guard me tight, I then can get my teammates involved more. If my shots aren’t falling, I go to rebound and do anything else to contribute.”
It’s always a plus to have talented players who play the game smartly by not forcing the issue. Often, we may see players let their own selves get the best of them by trying to play hero ball or focus too much on personal stats. In Nuangki’s case, he seems far from that, as he knows his limits and also the next step of improvement within his arsenal.
“I think getting to the rim is probably the best part of my game. I started to work at that growing up and playing against my older brothers, learning how to finish against taller defenders. My three-point shot needs the most work, moving forward. It felt decent last season but kind of fell off a bit this year. I’ve caught on to watching Ja Morant (current standout Murray State sophomore guard) more lately. We’re both similar in size, so I try to pick apart things from his game whenever he plays on TV.”
Yes… Ja Morant’s a certified hooper. He’s definitely a good one to study, both in his game and background. Before Nuangki joins the college hoops scene himself next season, he’s currently still weighing his options to determine the best choice to make.
“I have two offers from Bluefield College and Moberly Area Community College. I’ve also gained interest from VMI, Montana State, and Tiffin University, among others. Right now, I just want to focus on finishing out the season. Once it’s over, I’ll start going on more visits and probably will make a decision in May. If possible, I’d like to attend a school in a big city with some good people. My mom cares about education a lot, so that’ll be just as important too. Not sure about what I want to study yet… but I’m thinking about physical therapy, maybe. I’ll most likely center my senior project on physical therapy and see how much I like it.”
The senior has some good priorities and plans set in line. Branching out into a bigger city is relatable, as Nuangki hasn’t seen all that much in the small area of Martinsville during his first two years in Virginia. Still, he also acknowledges that it comes with a benefit of focusing even more on his craft.
“Well, there’s not too much to do other than go to school and play ball. It’s much different than Australia. The adjustment came with some difficulty but it’s been good for me because I’m doing schoolwork if not playing basketball. That, and hanging out with teammates. I’ve built more relationships even more this year; all of the seniors want to hang out with each other as much as we can since this is our final year. It’s been good making memories.”
Seems like your everyday high school senior. I’m sure most of us older (sort of) folks agree that we miss those days every now and then. It also turns out that Nuangki can give you trouble not only on the court, but on the game console as well. NBA 2k, Fortnite, Call of Duty, you name it.
The VISAA tournament will start up quite soon, around the first weekend in March. I plan to hopefully cover the event and wouldn’t be surprised to see Carlisle make another run deep into the bracket. They may have another banner coming back to school grounds with Nuangki and the other players keeping up their solid production. College coaches, you can catch the senior guard and his team competing in the VIC tournament, which starts up this week (2/19, 2/21, and 2/23).
One more thing, man. Where does Moses Nuangki see himself in ten years?
“In ten years… I see myself finishing up, or still continuing, a professional basketball career.”
Carlisle may have something cooking up quite soon…