Former Springfield standout Moss preps for college basketball

Former Springfield standout Raheim Moss, now at Spire Academy, during a game against his former teammates on Jan. 20, 2019, at Trent Arena. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED
Former Springfield standout Raheim Moss, now at Spire Academy, during a game against his former teammates on Jan. 20, 2019, at Trent Arena. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

When RaHeim Moss attends his first college basketball practice next fall at Toledo, he expects to be prepared. Coming out of Springfield High School last year that wouldn’t have been his expectation.

Moss scored around the basket and from above the rim more than from the perimeter in high school. He wasn’t asked to be a primary ballhandler. He also spent a lot of his time playing football, leaving less time to develop ballhandling and shooting skills. At 6-foot-3, he needed to develop more guard skills.

Meanwhile, football offers were rolling in from Cincinnati, Kentucky and Mid-American Conference schools. But he never accepted one. Instead, he focused his attention on leading Springfield to another district championship, drawing energy from the crowd with his many breakaway and alley-oop dunks.

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“My first love was always football for life, but I just feel like basketball is more entertaining and you just get a better feeling out of the crowd,” Moss said.

He wanted a basketball opportunity because he said he wants to be the first player in a long time and one of the few ever to represent his city in the NBA and have a long career.

Toledo noticed his potential last April and began the recruiting process. But Moss decided he wasn’t quite ready for college. About that same time Gravelle Craig took the head coaching job for Spire Academy’s post-grad team in Geneva, Ohio.

Craig played at Cleveland State in the early ’90s and was coming off 18 years of coaching at the Division I level, including seven years as a head coach at Bethune-Cookman in Florida. He started looking for players, saw Moss playing for an AAU team and convinced him that he could get him ready for college.

“I can tell him this is what it’s going to take at the next level — this is what you’ve got to do,” said Craig, who schedules and practices his team like a college team.

Spire played in the 18th Premier Health Flyin’ To The Hoop invitational at Fairmont High School’s Trent Arena last weekend. Moss is averaging 18 points and six assists for Spire. He handled the ball and ran the offense far more than he did in high school. He only scored nine points — in part because of an off day shooting free throws — but he showed a great ability to drive the lane and get to the basket. His old teammates mostly fouled him and sent him to the line.

“I did this year for a development year because going into play college basketball after my senior year I just felt like it was too early for me,” Moss said. “Taking this extra prep year I’m getting faster and stronger and getting my skills better on the court.”

Moss is appreciative of Craig and the assistant coaches. He said they are teaching him to be a better player and helping him mature off the court. When he gets to Toledo he said he believes he will be ready.

“Spire’s a great fit for me, and I just feel like there’s nothing better for me than this,” he said.

Craig said, “The growth and development all around from the basketball skill part of it to the social part of it to the academic part of it, he’s done a good job.”

Moss has a strong loyalty streak. He reached out to Flyin’s Eric Horstman about Spire playing Springfield at this year’s event. During starting lineup introductions he went to the Springfield bench and hugged every coach. After the game, he traded jerseys with former teammate Larry Stephens — who will be at Toledo on a football scholarship — and posed for photos.

“RaHeim still continues to have love for our program,” said Wildcats assistant coach Matt Yinger. “He’s come to practices, he’s talked to our guys about where we’re at and what they can do to help their cause. We’re very happy for him.”

Moss also showed loyalty to Toledo. He said they were the first to recruit him last spring. He committed to the Rockets and coach Tod Kowalczyk in late December. Kowalczyk is in his 10th year at Toledo and his program is coming off back-to-back 20-plus win seasons and an NIT bid. The Rockets are 11-8 and 3-3 in the MAC this year.

“A reason I chose Toledo over a lot of schools is because they’ve been with me throughout the whole recruiting process back in April, staying in touch and keeping that relationship,” Moss said.

Moss also said he likes the size of Toledo — “It’s not too small, but it’s not too big” — and he likes the atmosphere at home games. But it was Kowalczyk and his staff that ultimately swayed Moss.

“The coaching staff I really love,” he said. “They are care about academics more than athletics, which is more important to me. There was a lot of stuff that stood out to me, and there wasn’t one thing I didn’t like about the school.”

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