Standing on the floor of Hilton Coliseum, Nikki Moody thought back over her career.
The four-year letter winner thought back to the first few games in the arena, and how far she and her teammates had come in her time at Iowa State.
But the feeling was short-lived. The senior day festivities ended, and Moody said goodbye to her parents and fiancé who had joined her on the court. She had a game to play.
Iowa State was set to face then No. 3 Baylor, a team that had beaten them by nearly 30 points earlier in the season. But that didn’t matter to Moody, who, from the opening tip, took the game into her own hands.
And by the time Moody left the court that day, she had led the Cyclones to their third victory over a top-five team this season – and recorded a double double in the process, finishing with 13 points and 11 assists.
Now, weeks later, that game against the Lady Bears on Feb. 28 proved to be one of the best of Moody’s career. Not because she had a career-best night, but because of how the win came about.
“Being there and beating a big team like that, a number three team, and doing that with two other people that have been through a long four years with me, it was really special,” Moody said.
Moody was born in Des Moines, but moved to Texas as a child and quickly fell in love with the game of basketball.
She was a natural, and the game just came easy to her. Her parents, Lincoln and Chrystal, quickly took notice of their daughter’s gift.
“At a young age, when she was like seven or eight, she was just really gifted,” Lincoln said. “She just excelled; at every level she excelled. She’s a tough kid, so I knew eventually when she got to high school she would make it.”
More than just her parents soon noticed Moody’s talents, and she became a four-year starter in high school. She gained national attention too, earning a McDonald’s All-American game nomination and was an ESPN Hoopgurlz top-100 recruit.
But Moody’s parents didn’t allow all of her attention to shift to basketball. They insisted she kept up on her academics and instilled in her the significance of going to college.
And it worked. Not only was Moody accepted to Iowa State, but she also earned an academic scholarship.
“The main thing we focused on our kids was academics. That’s what my wife and I’s main focus with all our girls,” Lincoln said. “And a lot of people would be surprised that Nikki had an academic scholarship from Iowa State. So I knew she had the god-given gift of basketball, but academics was our main focus. She’s done well in both aspects.”
Once she got to Iowa State, Nikki didn’t waste any time, starting nearly every game during her freshman campaign. She finished the season averaging 10 points per game and broke Iowa State’s freshman assist record with 133 – marking one of the best seasons by an Iowa State freshman since 2007.
Over the next two years, Moody continued to put up similar numbers and moved up to third on the all time assist list. But her time at Iowa State wasn’t a walk in the park like some might have expected.
On more than one occasion, ISU coach Bill Fennelly suspended Moody for what he would cite as a ‘violation of team rules.’ Moody’s absence was never too long, but her absence definitely did not go unnoticed.
Chrystal said she helped Moody as best she could, and that the biggest issue was just readjusting to a new way of life.
“I think her first couple years, there was a lot of adjusting – just leaving home and going to school and being on your own,” Chrystal said. “But she’s had a lot of challenges across the board. I’m just very, very proud of her that she’s been able to overcome it.”
Moody was suspended for the first two preseason games of her senior season as well, but no definite reason was ever officially declared. Since then, though, her parents said they’ve noticed a change in her – both on and off the court.
“It’s her maturity now that’s made a difference,” Lincoln said. “She always could take hard coaching. Her high school coach was tough, and coach Fennelly is tough. But I think she’s done well enough to persevere through that, and that’s been nice to see.”
Moody was reinstated just in time for the first game of the year and seemed to pick back up right where she left off.
Moody finished her senior season averaging 14.5 points per game and finished the year with 206 assists. By the end of the year, Moody also became the Iowa State all-time assist leader, passing former Cyclone Lindsey Medders, who set the previous record at 719 assists.
Moody was named to the Nancy Leiberman Award watch list during her senior year as well, an award that is given to the nation’s top point guard.
And while she was able to post comparable numbers throughout all four of her years at Iowa State, Moody said something made this season stand out from the others.
“I’ve accomplished a lot in my years coming here, but this year I’ve proven a lot of people wrong,” Moody said. “I think stepping into my senior year a lot of people didn’t think I was going to be either that go-to player or the scorer, or even are you going to break the assist record. People didn’t have that confidence in me, and I think that I’ve proved everybody wrong.”
Even though Moody may have been a bit misunderstood by those outside the program, she sure wasn’t for those in it. Junior guard Nicole “Kidd” Blaskowsky knows what Moody’s been through, but said that the support that the team has given her over the years has been incredible.
“People can look at it anyway they want, but deep down when you really get to know somebody as the person that she is, she’s an awesome person,” Blaskowsky said. “Obviously people are going to have their ups and downs or their dislikes and likes about certain players or certain people. But to this team, she’s loved. She’s awesome and we love having her.”
Soon, though, it will be time for Moody to move on from Iowa State. But even though this part of her basketball career may be ending, another, she said, is just beginning. With WNBA hopes in the future, Moody plans to keep working in order to make it at the next level – something Lincoln thinks she’ll shine at.
“I think she’ll do well,” Lincoln said. “I think she’ll really, really be able to develop as a player in the WNBA because I think the more competition I’ve seen her face over the years, she’s always stepped up. So I think getting out there and trying to make a team is going to be a big thing.”
Blaskowsky has seen how hard Moody has worked over the years, and knows that will translate into wherever she ends up next. And while she would love to have Moody in an Iowa State jersey for another year, Blaskowsky knows that Moody will always be remembered as one of the basketball greats at Iowa State.
“She works so hard, she definitely leads this team. There’s so much trust and confidence in her,” Blaskowsky said. “She plays a great game of basketball…Even when things aren’t going well, she was always the first one to bring things back together and tell us everything is going to be ok. She is definitely going to be a legend on this team.”