Noel Moffatt said giving up hockey was one of the toughest decisions he’s ever made.
“Hockey was always my favourite sport growing up, and I still have a passion for the game,” said Moffatt, who played for the Gonzaga Vikings hockey team in high school while also putting in one year of basketball in Grade 12.
He’s still a little wistful for the game on ice.
“I played almost every day growing up and it was something I loved to do. I still miss it from time to time,” he said.
Moffatt believes his hockey background has had an impact on his aggressive style of basketball, which he employs as a member of the Memorial Sea-Hawks varsity team.
“My focus is to channel my aggressiveness in a positive way that can help the team,” he said. “People don’t realize it, but there’s a real correlation between hockey and basketball.”
In the meantime, he’s managed to parlay his brief high school basketball experience into a promising university career.
Now in his sophomore season with the Sea-Hawks, the 19-year-old Business student has emerged as one of the team’s most effective scorers in the second half of the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) season.
Moffatt saw limited time off the bench before the Christmas break with very little offensive stats to talk about.
He finally got his first start in late January against St. Francis Xavier University and rewarded his coach with 12 points and 10 rebounds in 29 minutes in one game, and 20 points and six boards in 33 minutes in the second match.
He’s started every game since, and enjoyed a breakout performance with a team-high 27 points against Acadia Axemen three weeks ago. Moffatt followed that up with a team-high 15 points last weekend against the University of New Brunswick.
Since Jan. 19, Moffatt is averaging 13.8 points per game.
His journey to the AUS materialized because of hard work, dedication and energetic play.
When he completed high school, Moffatt talked to Sea-Hawks coach Peter Benoite about the possibility of playing at MUN.
“There was nothing guaranteed,” noted Moffatt, “but I trained with the team in the off-season.
“Playing basketball for MUN,” he said, “seemed like good option at the time. Peter has been great to me and has given me plenty of opportunity to do well.”
His recent offensive numbers are even more surprising because Moffatt was not known as a scorer in high school.
“My main job was to rebound,” he said. “I was not really a scorer at all, mainly because I was just getting back to basketball at a competitive level and was most effective defensively and rebounding.”
The St. John’s native said his shooting started to improve last summer.
“Coach helped me work on my form and proper mechanics and after that, it's just practice and repetition, whether it’s in the backyard or in the old (MUN) gym.”
“He doesn’t mind taking shots and he’s been in the gym working on his shot which is paying off,” said Benoite. “He was a good rebounder in high school before developing into a shooter and it’s good to see.”
Most days, Moffatt says he’s either in a gym, “or just working on my form in my room before bed. It’s just something I enjoy doing. It’s not a chore.”
The 6-5 forward said Benoite has given him a lot of opportunity at Memorial, “and he knows what he’s is talking about. I’m just glad to be a part of it.”
Benoite said Moffatt plays a fearless game, going after the ball without hesitation.
“He’s athletic and wirey, and he’s got good hands which really helps,” Benoite said. “He’s a little bit unorthodox, but he was obviously well coached in high school.”
Moffatt suffered a concussion while playing high school hockey in Grade 10, and took an elbow to the head playing against Acadia last season, which kept him out of uniform for three games.
“But it basically ended my season in terms of playing time and confidence,” he said.
In addition to that, he also picked up mono during the end of the semester, lost a lot of weight and needed to get a few mid-term exams deferred.
“I trained with Theo (Stanoev), Ryan (Wood) and Jake (Hynes) over the summer,” Moffatt said, “but I did not have as an effective off-season as I could have had.”
He’s completely healthy and has been able to take his game to a new level in the second half of the season. Now he will be expected to continue to develop his skills over the next three years.
And he seems to be enjoying the metamorphosis.
“It felt good to see the ball go through the hoop against Acadia,” he admitted, before adding, “but to become a better player in this league you need to contribute every night, whether it’s rebounding, shooting or defending the top players. That’s what I need to focus on … contributing each night on both ends of the floor.”
While having a great game feels good personally, Moffatt said it will feel better once those games start translating into wins for the Sea-Hawks.