Xavier Moon suiting up for USA Basketball: 'something I never thought I would be doing'
USA Basketball has been working toward the goal of qualifying for the 2023 FIBA Men's World Cup for nearly 18 months now, a journey that will ultimately feature six two-game windows, 52 players and consistent leadership from World Cup Qualifying head coach Jim Boylen.
But building six different rosters isn't easy, and it falls on USA Basketball men's national team director Sean Ford to build the best possible rosters to achieve the qualification goal.
For the current and final window, Ford added several young veterans with vast experience in the NBA, NBA G League and overseas. Having played seven professional seasons, Xavier Moon is one of the new faces on the team looking to make an impact with his leadership, poise and skill.
“I never expected to be in this position,” Moon said. “This is honestly something I never thought I would be doing. Obviously, you watch [USA] play but you never expect to be in that position. So, to be here and be around this group of guys and the coaching staff, man, it’s a blessing for real, especially coming from where I come from.”
One would be hard-pressed to find a more committed and ambitious player than Moon.
Making headlines in the 2021-22 NBA season, Moon was part of some of the season’s best NBA games. An energy guy through and through, Moon electrified the Los Angeles Clippers’ bench, witnessing a 25-point comeback and 24-point comeback in a matter of days.
When his number was called, Moon delivered, averaging 7.8 points and 2.3 assists in a four-game stretch as a reserve for the Clippers.
But in order to understand Moon’s unmatched energy levels, one has to start at the beginning.
Lightly scouted coming out of high school, Moon wasn’t a likely NBA player when he went undrafted in 2017 out of Morehead State University.
Despite this, Moon kept his head down and immediately made the move to play in a professional league. At the behest of his uncle, Jamario Moon, Xavier wound up playing for the Albany Patroons of The Basketball League and went on to win the league’s rookie of the year award.
Xavier and Jamario’s bond is something Xavier attributes to his successful career.
“I talk to [Jamario] pretty much all the time,” Xavier said. “He’s not even really like an uncle, he’s more like my brother, my mentor because we have so many conversations about basketball.”
Jamario, who was known as “Full Moon,” mentored Xavier, who became known as “Half Moon.” Xavier took his uncle’s words to heart and plans to use those lessons to help inspire his play and teach his teammates.
“Even when I was playing overseas, [Jamario] was just telling me to keep doing what I’m doing and somebody’s always watching,” Xavier said. “The advice he’s given me is to just stay patient.”
Having begun to make waves, Xavier continued to follow in the footsteps of his uncle, who had his own undrafted journey to stardom. Xavier went on to play for the Canadian Elite Basketball League, where he made waves by winning league MVP three years in a row.
Then, in 2021, Moon’s course changed when he signed with the Agua Caliente Clippers, the G League affiliate of the Clippers. His demeanor won over the coaching staff and he signed three 10-day contracts and then a two-way contract before heading back to the NBA G League this season.
Even though it was back to the drawing board, Moon is no stranger to the grind. Playing for Agua Caliente, Moon was coming off a 44-point, seven-assist showing before getting the call offering him a spot on the USA Men’s World Cup Qualifying Team.
“I actually expected to be on break right now, but when I got the call, it’s something that you can’t turn down,” Moon said. “And me loving the game of basketball, just having this opportunity, I mean, it was an easy decision. I’m really looking forward to these next couple of days and spending time with these guys and wearing ‘USA’ on my chest.”
Moon’s hopes to add value on this team. The 6-foot-2 guard is looking to lead on and off the court with his voice and passion, something the coaching staff encourages.
In just a small amount of time, Moon is contributing to a winning and tight-knit culture on the USA Men’s World Cup Qualifying Team.
“I feel like everybody is bonding together pretty well even though it’s a short stint. We’re making those connections real quick and it will be something that we hold onto for a lifetime,” Moon said.
Now, in a spot beyond his wildest dreams, Moon is appreciative of the steps he has taken to earn a spot playing for USA Basketball.
“It’s been one of those, it’s definitely been a journey,” Moon said. “I’m happy for every stop that I’ve made, every person I’ve met on this journey, they’ve helped in some way to help me get me. I’m thankful for this opportunity, I’m blessed to be here and looking forward to these next couple of weeks.”
The USA closes qualifying against Brazil on Feb. 26 at 7:10 p.m. ET in Santa Cruz do Sul, Brazil. The game will stream live and for free in the U.S. to Courtside 1891 subscribers.