- The Washington Times - Monday, June 20, 2011

Vlad Moldoveanu isn’t so different than the legion of recent college graduates looking for work. He received a degree in international media with a minor in history from American University on May 7, plans to start a charity in his native Romania and preps for interviews with prospective employers.

That means he rarely leaves the basketball court.

Six days each week, American assistant coach Lamar Barrett puts Moldoveanu through workouts at the school or St. John’s College High School. This is how Moldoveanu spends his time in basketball limbo, waiting for his professional career to begin.

Sure, the 6-foot-9 forward averaged 20.4 points per game for American last season and was a two-time All-Patriot League pick. Offers to play in Europe are on the table. But the NBA draft is Thursday in Newark, N.J. Though Moldoveanu isn’t listed in any of the major mock drafts, he’s determined to see if he can catch on with an NBA team.

“It’s overwhelming not knowing where you’re going to end up,” Moldoveanu said. “But it’s not like, ‘Oh, I’m not going to have a job.’ “

Moldoveanu adopted a methodical approach to his quest. Perhaps that comes from his mother, Carmen Tocala, better known as the hard-charging president of the Romanian basketball federation. She’s Romania’s David Stern, quipped one American staffer, referencing the NBA’s irascible commissioner. Moldoveanu describes her as “kind of a big deal.”

Every day, Tocala and Moldoveanu text or chat. She’s been his harshest critic since he was a youngster on Romania’s national team.

“When I make a shot, I could shoot better,” Moldoveanu said. “I’ve learned how to take it in a good way, not in a bad way and get mad. … You do some things right, but you always need to point out things you can do better.”

On his mother’s advice, Moldoveanu decided to table the European offers to pursue the NBA. That hasn’t allowed much down time.

To market himself, Moldoveanu played in the college all-star game at Reliant Stadium in Houston the night before the Final Four. Moldoveanu said he was the only participant doing homework. The Portsmouth Invitational Tournament in Portsmouth, Va., followed. Moldoveanu participated in the NBA’s Eurocamp in Treviso, Italy, from June 11 to 13.

In his spare time, Moldoveanu will play for Romania at the World University Games in Shenzhen, China, from Aug. 11 to 21.

At some point, perhaps, he’ll find time to sleep.

For now, Barrett prepares Moldoveanu for his on-court interviews. Moldoveanu shuns professional trainers. He believes his assistant coaches already know his game, inside and out, and are better positioned than a stranger to strengthen his weaknesses.

Barrett, who figured Moldoveanu would simply hire a trainer, starts with five or 10 ballhandling drills. Next up is shooting on the move, particularly coming off curls or screens. Improving Moldoveanu’s shooting off the dribble, is another focus.

“He’s not going to get more athletic. He’s not going to grow,” Barrett said. “So, he needs to work on putting the ball on the floor better and finishing in the post against long and athletic guys.”

Last month, Paul DeStephano happened upon Moldoveanu at 8:45 a.m. going through one of the workouts at St. John’s College High School. DeStephano coached Moldoveanu at St. John’s and was reminded of his willingness to learn and put in the work to complement his physical gifts.

But everyone who talks about Moldoveanu’s future adds the same caveat: He needs to find the right fit. Not just a team - in Europe or the NBA - that likes him, but a system that welcomes his unique game.

“He’s almost like an specialist,” DeStephano said. “He can create tremendous mismatch problems for the opposition. But he’s not your traditional big guy. He’s not solely a back-to-the-basket guy who is going to bang, bang, bang.”

Moldoveanu has been like that since he arrived at St. John’s, an above-average passer who can shoot the ball from the perimeter. But after studying average heights and weights in the NBA, Moldoveanu determined he needed to get stronger. He hopes to have his weight up to 230 by September. He’s at 222 now.

By then, Moldoveanu hopes his job search will be less muddled.

“It’s either the NBA or Europe,” Barrett said. “It depends on the fit. It has to be a fit with the right team in order for him to be successful. I can’t say what’s best for him, but he has an opportunity to make a ton of money wherever he goes.”

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