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Charting a different course: UND’s Aanen Moody out to prove he made the right decision

North Dakota's Aanen Moody drives to the basket against Western Illinois' Jordan Hughes during a game earlier this season. Moody, of Dickinson, N.D., is the lone North Dakotan on the UND roster this season. Eric Hylden / Forum News Service

GRAND FORKS -- When he was a young kid, University of North Dakota freshman guard Aanen Moody’s family didn’t take much of a stance on the North Dakota-North Dakota State rivalry despite residing in Dickinson, N.D.

“We were pretty neutral,” Moody said. “We were Blue Hawks. I went to all Dickinson State events. We were pretty focused on our side of the state.”

But that’s before Aanen’s brother, Nate, played wide receiver for the Bison football program and his sister, Ali, played volleyball in Fargo, too.

Aanen, however, charted a different path. He chose to come to Grand Forks and will be on the Fighting Hawks’ side when UND and NDSU meet in men’s basketball at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 6, at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.

As the only North Dakota native who will play in the rivalry game, Moody admits there’s a little more at stake for him.

“There was a lot of controversy going to UND with my family’s roots at NDSU,” Moody said. “Being recruited by both teams and those two schools as the main options on my radar, I just want to prove to everybody that I made the right decision. That’s why this game means so much to me.”

Moody’s in-state recruiting started young. As an eighth-grader-to-be, Moody played up three grades for the AAU team, North Dakota Phenom.

At a 16U tournament in Sioux Falls, S.D., the young Moody scored about 25 points. UND assistant coach Steve Grabowski took notice.

Before even starting high school, Moody would go on unofficial visits to both UND and NDSU.

“Over the years, I felt like I was in communication with UND and Grabowski more,” Moody said. “My relationship as I was going into my later high school years was stronger there. After my junior year, Grabowski hit me up. I always wanted to stay in North Dakota but for a while I didn’t know which one. It was my first offer, and I took it right away.”

Moody would go on to become one of the most decorated prep basketball players in state history.

He was a Mr. Basketball winner and a two-time Gatorade N.D. Player of the Year. He broke the state’s Class A scoring record by finishing with 2,139 career points -- passing Valley City’s Jeff Boschee (1,994) and Fargo Shanley’s A.J. Jacobson (2,002).

As a senior at Dickinson High School, Moody averaged 30.6 points per game and at one point popped in back-to-back games of more than 50 points.

The following year, Moody went from star to the bench as he redshirted during the 2017-18 UND season.

“When you’re a guy who scores 30, it’s hard to humble yourself and play within the system,” Moody said. “Coming in my redshirt year, I had no notoriety. No one knows who you are. My redshirt year really humbled me and made me appreciate being part of this program and having a role to help my team.”

Moody, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard, spent a lot of time his redshirt season working with former UND assistant Jeff Horner, a former University of Iowa star.

“Jeff is a legend in the state of Iowa and played pro ball, so it was a no-brainer to learn from that guy and apply anything from his game to my game,” Moody said.

Moody said he spent that first season in Grand Forks adjusting to his new role and working on his defense.

“If you can’t guard, you can’t play,” he said. “I didn’t want to be the weak link on defense.”

In his first season of game action at UND, Moody is coming off the bench and averaging 9.8 points per game.

He’s hitting 40 percent of his 3-pointers and has hit five or more 3-pointers in a game on six occasions. For the year, he’s attempted 150 three-pointers -- second-most in the Summit League.

Moody is hoping to evolve his game this offseason.

“Coach (Brian) Jones and I talk about that a lot,” Moody said. “Right now in the offense, my primary role is to shoot the ball and play defense. Next year, I really want to try to expand my game as a creator instead of just a scorer. Hopefully by next year, I can be one of those ball-dominating guards who can influence the game by creating.”

Moody was held to six points against NDSU when the Bison beat the Hawks 67-65 in Fargo last month.

The Bison sit fourth in the Summit (11-12 overall, 5-4 in the Summit) and the Hawks are in seventh (9-14, 3-7).

“We’re really young,” Moody said. “We have a lot to prove. We just need to get over that hump. We haven’t been able to do that. I don’t think our record does justice to who we are as a team right now.”

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