Devyn Marble starred for the Hawkeyes wearing the No. 4, earning all-Big Ten honors before heading to the NBA in 2014. Moss has similar size to Marble — both stand about 6-foot-6 — and both have comparable skill sets.
Of course likening the school’s No. 6 all-time leading scorer to a freshman barely on campus not only is premature, it’s almost irresponsible. Marble scored 1,694 points and guided the Hawkeyes to a top-10 ranking and their first NCAA tournament berth in eight years. But Moss — who said he “looks up to Marble’s game” — is at a parallel stage of development to Marble when the Orlando Magic guard was a freshman.
“Dev might laugh at this right now, but (Moss) comes in with a little more athleticism than Dev did at the time,” Iowa assistant Andrew Francis said. “I think Dev grew into his athleticism. Dev grew a little bit height-wise, he was a little taller. Dev’s craftiness was uncanny. He was a crafty, crafty guy. But the scoring feel is similar.
“Isaiah comes in with a little bit more of a consistent jump shot. But overall the comparisons, they’re not way off base.”
Iowa started recruiting Moss during his sophomore year at Chicago’s Lincoln-Way East. Francis saw potential and kept in touch but didn’t offer Moss a scholarship. Then Moss transferred to renowned basketball powerhouse Chicago Simeon. Francis, assistant coach Sherman Dillard and head coach Fran McCaffery saw Moss play alongside forward Ed Morrow and guard D.J. Williams. Iowa went hard after Morrow, but he opted for Nebraska. Williams signed with Illinois.
One day Francis received a call from Moss’ father, which reignited the interest on both sides. Francis checked in with McCaffery about Moss, and their relationship grew.
“I knew it wasn’t a glaring need, but he was a good player,” Francis said. “Coach was like, ‘Heck yeah.’ So I called (Mike Moss) back and said we’d definitely be interested and I can kind of get you guys familiar with Coach McCaffery. They had already met him because he came up here as a sophomore. Everything seemed like it happened so quick. The relationship was already established so he felt good about coming.”
The groundwork between Francis and Moss forged a bond.
“I have a very good relationship with Coach Francis,” Moss said. “He’s the first one that recruited me my sophomore year. So that’s my guy.”
Moss averaged 10 points, two rebounds and two assists as a senior at Simeon. The school has produced dozens of Division I and NBA players including icons like the late Benji Wilson, Derrick Rose and Jabari Parker. Moss felt a responsibility to carry on the Simeon legacy.
“Wearing a Simeon shirt means a lot just knowing who all came from the school, so I took a lot of pride in that and tried to give it all I’ve got,” he said.
Moss needed to clear a few academic hurdles last summer so he didn’t arrive on campus until August. He worked out daily in Chicago and kept in touch with Iowa’s coaching staff, but he missed some necessary instruction time.
“He missed a lot,” McCaffery said. “He’s trying to get caught up. It’s a shame he wasn’t here. I’m proud of him of how he got it done and how’s he here.
“He’s a little far behind, but it’s doable. He can make it up.”
Moss will play shooting guard this year but has position flexibility in the future. His potential gives Francis hope that Moss will blossom as a player, like he did from his final three years of high school.
“You saw the difference,” Francis said. “You saw the confidence, you saw the skill set that was better. Now he’s not a big, big guy, but he’s bigger than he was as a sophomore. So I’ve seen the transformation in him in a couple of years that he’s grown and his desire to want to play at this level, to succeed at this level.
If he makes those strides this year, that’s when the Marble comparisons become applicable, Francis said.
“(Marble) kind of got his feet wet and a feel for everything and made his adjustment,” Francis said. “If Isaiah has that part, then he has a chance to really be good because he can really shoot the basketball.”