ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)- When the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles take the court Thursday night for their first round matchup against North Carolina, the team will have a big fan rooting them on here in Missouri. And if fate hadn’t intervened, Eric Moeller would do more than cheer from the sidelines; he’d be on the court trying to help topple the top-seeded Tar Heels.
Moeller, a 6-11 center from De Smet Jesuit, arrived at the Fort Myers, FL school last season after stops at Mizzou as a walk-on and then at a Florida junior college. His career was cut short because of concussions which he said started in grade school. The one that contributed to the end of his career that happened during postseason practice last spring wasn’t even the most serious one, he told FOX2 in an email interview.
“My first concussion was in 3rd grade believe it or not. I hit my head on the floor playing basketball, knocked unconscious. With the brain being so under developed at the age it was probably even more dangerous. I had one or two in high school. Probably more that weren’t diagnosed. Most of the time I just brushed it off and kept playing. The worst one was during a practice at my junior college in Florida. I was taken off on a stretcher and sent to the hospital. Had no memory of what happened,” he wrote.
“The very first thing people say to me when I tell them about my concussions is “really? You got those from playing basketball?” Nobody understands how physical the game is. I will admit, mine had a lot more to do with just bad luck than anything.”
Moeller said the decision to stop playing was his and that he did it to “play it safe”.
He’s back now at the University of Missouri finishing his degree and rooming with MU senior forward Ryan Rosburg but still has his heart firmly pulling for FGCU, calling the idea of playing in the NCAA tournament a dream for as long as he’s known what it was all about.
Florida Gulf Coast is coached by a former Kansas assistant coach Joe Dooley, an irony not lost on Moeller, a long-time Mizzou fan.
Being back on the MU campus, Moeller has been reunited with another former De Smet Spartan, Jimmy Barton, who he tried to recruit to FGCU.
“Too many people overlook him. He works harder than anyone I have ever met. The way he handled his role with Mizzou this year was amazing. They kind of just threw him into the fire but the way he works, it didn’t effect him at all. I was extremely proud of him and I know (De Smet) coach (Kevin) Poelker was too.”
If the Eagles are the first to pull off an upset of a top seed in the first round, they won’t do it with the “Dunk City” high octane approach under a previous coaching staff that earned FGCU headlines a few year ago, Moeller said.
“We focused on defense in practice more than anything else. And running. We ran. A lot. Definitely wanted to make us tougher. And he did. When I watch them play this year, I can see every movement, every play, every drill re-run in my head. There is still plenty of athleticism with Meech (Morant) Rayjon Tucker, and Zach Johnson. But Dooley loves his half court offense. I still remember most of the plays.”