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Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024
The Observer

Former Irish forward Mooney signs with NBL champ Perth Wildcats

Former Notre Dame men’s basketball forward John Mooney has signed a contract with the Perth Wildcats of the Australian National Basketball League (NBL). The Wildcats are coming off of winning the NBL championship last season.

Mooney played for the Irish from the 2016-17 season through the abbreviated 2019-20 season which was cut short due to COVID-19. After appearing in only 12 games as a freshman, Mooney was forced into a more prominent role in his sophomore campaign as injuries to forward Bonzie Colson and guards Matt Farrell and D.J. Harvey shortened the rotation. He proceeded to average nearly 5.6 points and 3.9 rebounds per game in his second year and showed out with an 18-point performance at North Carolina on 6-6 3-point shooting.

Observer File Photo
Former Irish forward John Mooney leaps for a contested layup during Notre Dame's 80-72 win over Georgia Tech on Feb. 1 at Purcell Pavilion. Mooney was named to the All-ACC First Team last year.

Mooney’s junior year saw him become a force for the Irish down low. After recording only one double-double through his first two seasons, he recorded 20 in his third, including an 18-point, 20-rebound performance against Clemson in the regular season home finale. His play earned him a second place finish in the ACC Most Improved Player voting and an All-ACC Third Team selection as the Irish limped to a 14-19 record on the season.

After serving as a bright spot on a struggling team in his third year, Mooney’s senior campaign was a more fitting end to the Irish star’s career. He continued increasing his output, going from 14.1 points and 11.2 rebounds per game the previous year to 16.2 points and 12.7 boards in his final season. He also led the nation in defensive rebounds and double-doubles, adding 25 more of the latter to his career total and breaking Luke Harangody’s school record. That play, along with the improved play of his team, catapulted Mooney into the national spotlight.

He was a finalist for the 2019-20 Karl Malone Award, given annually to the top power forward in college basketball. He was also named conference Player of the Week for the week of Feb. 6, and an All-ACC First Team selection. His statistical output as a senior had not been seen in college basketball since Blake Griffin and Tim Duncan. Since 1992, only those three players have averaged at least 15.7 points, 13.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists per contest in a single season.

Since Notre Dame’s season was cut short in the middle of the ACC Tournament, leaving Mooney with no chance to bolster his NBA Draft stock on a national scale in either the NCAA Tournament or National Invitation Tournament, he has signed with the Perth Wildcats. Last season the Wildcats went 19-9 and claimed the NBL championship, their second consecutive title and the 10th in the franchise’s 39 years of existence. However, it is noteworthy that their most recent title came with a 2-1 series victory in a best-of-five NBL Finals, as the opponent Sydney Kings decided not to conclude the series with the coronavirus pandemic becoming more dangerous.

Mooney figures to play prominent role early in his professional tenure, as former Perth big man and All-NBL First Team player Nicholas Kay departed his native Australia to sign with Real Betis of Liga ACB, the top division in the Spanish professional basketball circuit. Mooney is made in the same mold as Kay, both in terms of his physical build and on-the-court skills.

Mooney stands 6-foot-9 to Kay’s 6-foot-8 frame, while both players can be identified as a type of stretch big-man. Mooney shot nearly 36% from beyond the arc for his career in South Bend, with his best season coming as a sophomore at nearly 42%. Kay shot the deep ball at a 46.3% clip last season while contributing 15.5 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists.

Mooney may still enter his name into the NBA Draft and his contract does include an NBA-out clause for if he is selected. The Draft was postponed from its original June date to Oct. 16.