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Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024
The Observer

John Mooney signs with Perth Wildcats

Like much of the world, former Irish forward John Mooney has spent the last six months in a state of flux, unsure of how things will play out. So when the opportunity to continue his career in Australia came along, he had to take it.

Speaking to Mooney back in early May, there seemed little doubt that he’d have settled into his next move by this point. In fact, up until a few weeks ago his sole focus was the NBA. While that dream is still alive, Mooney recently signed an NBA-out clause on August 14 with the Perth Wildcats, securing a future opportunity while awaiting the NBA adjustments to the new draft timeline.

The decision to pursue opportunities overseas came as events designed for draft exposure were cancelled.

“The Senior Invitational in Portsmouth [Virginia] was canceled,” Mooney said. “There’s been no workouts with teams. Up until this point, there’s been no combine. There’s no summer league.”

These opportunities are especially important for a player like Mooney, who’s game — while productive — isn’t necessarily flashy.

While disappointed in the end to his senior season and the delay to starting his professional career, Mooney has appreciated spending time with family back in Orlando.

“I’m working out, working on my game, trying to get ready for the next level. And that’s kind of just my focus, trying to get better every day,” he said. “… I guess that’s one of the silver linings of this whole thing is a being able to spend time with family.”

Throughout his time at home, Mooney started to become uneasy about the growing number of concerns regarding the NBA’s return to play next season.

“No one knows when it’s going to start,” he said. “No one knows if it’s going to be in a bubble setting again. There’s a lot of talks, a lot of concerns on the G League, whether or not that’s even going to be a thing next year. So just with the combination of all those things, I thought it was wise to look elsewhere, just to have some security.”

Mooney credited former Irish teammates Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell as well as head coach Mike Brey and assistant coach Ryan Humphrey for being resources to him throughout the decision process.

“Those four guys have been extremely helpful for me just to be able to ask them questions about the process, ask them questions about international basketball, you know what I can expect,” Mooney said. “It’s been awesome to get in touch with those guys and stay connected with them.”

This search for an opportunity eventually led him to Perth, courtesy of his agent, Adam Pensack, who represents other members of the Perth program and was familiar with the organization.

“It kind of worked out well. Their forward this past year actually moved on so they had an open spot,” Mooney said. “Me being a forward, kind of jumped on it and Perth also saw the opportunity was there so it kind of worked out. … Everything just kind of clicked and I thought it was a great fit.”

Perth, located on the western coast of Australia, is home to over 2 million people, making it the fourth largest city in Australia. According to Mooney, they have a long tradition of success and their fans have a reputation of being some of the best in the NBL.

“They're are a championship organization,” he said. “After speaking with their head coach a couple times, I get the sense that they come from a winning background and their values align with mine. Their values include hard work, winning, and respecting everyone in the organization and the community.“

Additionally, Mooney is optimistic that Australia’s aggressive response to the COVID-19 pandemic will allow the league to resume play with some live fans in the near future.

“Last time I talked, they’re planning on having fans. I don’t know if they’re going to do a capacity limit or if they're going to have everyone in there. As a player you want to play in front of fans so hopefully they’ll allow the fans in there,” Mooney said. ”From what I’ve heard the Perth Wildcat fanbase is crazy and they’re really huge on basketball so I would love to play in front of them.”

For Mooney, one of the best parts of this contract is that it gives him flexibility to continue to pursue his dream of playing in the NBA. The NBA-out class gives him the ability to continue to prepare for the NBA Draft, which is currently set to take place on October 16. If he gets drafted or is signed as an undrafted agent with an NBA team, then his contract with the Wildcats is voided. If not, he’ll be on a plane to Australia within a week of the Draft.

“It’s definitely nice to have the flexibility to still go through the NBA Draft process,” Mooney said. “That’s been my dream as a little kid to play in the NBA so I guess I can have some closure and give it a shot before going over to Perth.”

In addition to the flexibility the contract offers, Mooney is confident that he would could fit in well with the Wildcats’ style of play.

“They recently had a power forward who was very similar to me and a skill guy who could be versatile and go inside and outside, rebound the ball and can defend. … I’ve been watching some film on their team and how they used him in particular, and I think I can fit in well and add value to the organization,” he said.

Despite such exciting opportunities on the horizon, Mooney is trying to stay in the moment and focus on the things that are in his control.

“The big thing is just not trying to look too far ahead in the future. I’m just going to try to take it day-by-day and focus on what I can control, which is just trying to get better every day and staying consistent and diligent,” Mooney said. “There’s just a lot of uncertainties, a lot of unknowns in this world. It’s hard to predict what the next few months are going to exactly look like. I just feel like if I continue to do my job on a day-to-day basis, then things will work out.”