Matt Mooney had plenty of suitors for his talents over the past seven weeks.
The 6-foot-3 guard from Chicago had received his release from the Air Force men’s basketball program and began looking for a new destination – somewhere where he could spend the next four seasons, one as a redshirt and three as a difference maker.
One of the first schools to jump on the Mooney train? The University of South Dakota.
Fast forward to last week when Mooney visited the Vermillion campus for three days, a visit that eventually led him to verbally commit to the Coyote program on Monday.
“After visiting South Dakota, I just realized that it was the place for me. It sunk in right away,” Mooney said in a phone interview Tuesday.
Mooney, who listed Colgate (N.Y.) and Evansville on his final list, played in 29 games last season for Air Force, which competes in the Mountain West Conference. He averaged 6.9 points in 19.2 minutes per game.
Mooney will have to redshirt the 2015-16 season at USD, but will then have three seasons of eligibility. He will join fellow transfer Trey Dickerson (Iowa) as eligible additions for the 2016-17 season.
While on his visit last week to Vermillion, Mooney was able to see first-hand the ongoing construction of USD’s 6,000-seat basketball and volleyball arena, which will open in time for the 2016-17 season.
“The new facility looks like it’ll be phenomenal,” he said. “That’s exciting. The campus is really nice, and being a school of ten thousand is pretty cool.”
As part of his visit to USD, Mooney was also able to spend time with current Coyote players Casey Kasperbauer and Logan Power, which no doubt helped attract Mooney to the program.
“It’s a place I could see myself for a couple years, with those kind of people,” he said.
Spending time, even if for a few days at the time, around USD head coach Craig Smith – known by now to Coyote fans for his energy and enthusiasm – certainly didn’t hurt Mooney’s decision. Smith guided the Coyotes to a 17-16 record last season and the program’s first-ever win in the Summit League tournament.
“There’s no doubt he’s bringing the program in the right direction,” Mooney said. “His drive and commitment, and he believes in his players and himself and his coaching staff.
“He’s one of those guys you want to be around every day.”
What does Mooney bring to the table?
“I think I can score the ball, and I know they want me to score the ball; be a playmaker,” he said. “I’ll try to get stronger, but we’ve got some guys coming in. I think we’ve got a lot of good pieces.”
As for what he’ll be coming into at USD, Mooney said he was at least a little familiar with the Summit League. Not only did he joke that he’s well aware of the USD vs. South Dakota State rivalry, Mooney was an AAU teammate with Kory Brown, a standout at North Dakota State.
Also Monday, USD officially announced the addition of Tyler Borchers, a 6-foot-6 forward from LeMars, Iowa. He had previously committed to the program two weeks earlier.