Junior guard Kai Moon has grown under the leadership of former teammates Imani Watkins, ‘18, and Alyssa James, ‘18, and she has seen the Binghamton women’s basketball team improve considerably as a result. In Moon’s freshman year, she averaged 8.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game on a team that went 13-17 overall. Last season, Moon emerged as the team’s second option offensively and improved across the board statistically. Moon averaged 11.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game while improving her field goal percentage by 4.9 percent and her accuracy from 3-point range by 8.4 percent. Last season featured the Bearcats’ best regular season in its NCAA Division I history, posting a 20-12 overall record and earning the third seed in the America East (AE) Tournament. Now, with a new coaching staff and an overhauled roster, Moon is set to be the focal point of the Bearcats’ squad this season, both as the team’s point guard and its most proven scoring option.
“As a point guard, facilitating is definitely going to be one of the biggest things for myself,” Moon said at the team’s media day. “I might be looking for my shot, looking to be aggressive, but ultimately, getting my teammates involved is going to be one of my biggest responsibilities and priorities coming in.”
Moon’s efficiency stood out in particular as the team’s second option. Among all Bearcats to have attempted at least 100 field goals last season, Moon’s true shooting percentage of 56 percent ranked first on the team. True shooting percentage accounts for the efficiency of 3-pointers and free throws, as opposed to field goal percentage, which only factors total field goals attempted. Additionally, Moon posted a team-best assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.2, which quantified her strong decision-making as a passer. Moon rarely took contested shots or forced passes, but still racked up points and dimes prolifically, giving BU a reliable centerpiece offensively.
Moon will enter the 2018-19 campaign with many new pieces surrounding her. Losing three of last season’s top-six Bearcats in terms of minutes played, Binghamton will feature a few new faces in its rotation this season. Additionally, Moon will be playing under an entirely new coaching staff, anchored by head coach Bethann Shapiro Ord. Shapiro Ord has experience handling roster turnover, as her previous tenure at Weber State featured a strong turnaround of the program, compiling a 57-41 record in her past three years. With several new additions to the roster and coaching staff, the Bearcats faced a steep learning curve this offseason.
“With this season, I knew I had to come into a different role, but I’ve had a lot of help from my teammates, so that has made it an easy transition for me,” Moon said. “With a new coach as well, it’s kind of trying to figure out what is coach looking for and how to fit into the system. Overall, I think it’s been going well so far, and I attribute that to how everyone on this team has stepped up and come together since this summer.”
With so much change to the program, and to the coaching staff in particular, BU will be playing under new offensive and defensive systems. Adding new players as well as expanding roles of returning players — Moon included — will give the Bearcats’ competition new scouting material from previous seasons.
“I think our style of play right now is very different than how we played last season,” Moon said. “We’ve got players that didn’t play last year, we’ve got freshmen coming in that I think could give us a really big boost. From that perspective, you’re not scouting the same team that you did last year, and I think we’ve got players that weren’t on this team last year that have stepped up incredibly. We’ve got kind of some secret weapons.”
The team’s top remaining scorer and facilitator from last year, Moon is eager to embark on a new journey in her third season with the Bearcats. With ample opportunity to produce in a new offense, Moon will apply what she has learned as an underclassman under Watkins, James and others.
“We’re all really excited … I think it’s going to be a really good year for us,” Moon said. “I definitely have to step up and be more of a leader, but whatever the team needs from me in the system that coach wants me to play, that’s what I’m gonna do.”