ISU MBB: Mocsan’s international experience bodes well for future at ISU
Balint Mocsan had never been to the United States before his 18-hour flight from Hungary brought him to Pocatello last August.
The 19-year-old Budapest native had always wanted to play basketball in America, and he had his shot — in the cozy mountain town in southeast Idaho — across the Atlantic Ocean and eight time zones from home.
“I was so concerned about this whole thing before I got here, because I didn’t know what I should expect,” Mocsan said. “Everybody’s so kind, so nice, so it made it easier to get used to everything.”
Mocsan played 31 minutes in his college basketball debut, an 81-70 loss at New Mexico, and started the Bengals’ next two games. His playing time has been inconsistent but has averaged out to 11.1 minutes per game, in which he scores 3.6 points by mostly shooting from the 3-point line.
Idaho State head coach Bill Evans heard about Mocsan “through the grapevine” and was attracted to his shooting and defending abilities.
Mocsan led the Hungarian national team in scoring with 17.6 points a night in July’s FIBA U20 European Championship in Finland — good for fourth-best among all players in the tournament. He poured in 32 points on 9-of-13 shooting against Lithuania, tying him with teammate Marcell Pongo for the second-best single-game scoring performance, and had 20-plus-point outings against Sweden and Belgium.
Mocsan shot 54.2 percent from the field and 40 percent from behind the arc during Hungary’s seven games in the tournament. He scored a season-high 10 points Dec. 7 at No. 17 Wisconsin and tied a season high with three 3-pointers Saturday against Idaho.
“He can really shoot the ball,” Evans said. “I think he’s got great potential as a shooter. He’s got size, he’s a competent defender. He’s going to get bigger and stronger. Hes a good person, good student. Lot of positives.”
Mocsan played in FIBA U18 and U16 European competitions, leading Hungary in scoring (13.4 ppg) in the U18 tournament. He also played two seasons for MAFC Budapest, which competes in the highest level of men’s club basketball in Hungary.
The 6-foot-3, 182-pound guard said there are distinct contrasts between basketball in America and Europe.
“In Europe, the basketball is a little bit more organized,” Mocsan said. “But here, it’s faster and it’s more physical.”
Mocsan said he’s had to adjust to not always getting into offensive sets, pushing the ball in transition and improvising with the Bengals (2-14, 0-4 Big Sky Conference), who play Thursday at Northern Colorado (7-10, 3-3). Mocsan will be one of nine available players for the injury-fraught Bengals, and Evans said he’ll start against UNC.
After spending his first month in America jet-lagged and on the wrong side of a language barrier, Mocsan is earning a chance to build a reputation as ISU’s next scoring threat.
CHIVICHYAN OUT FOR REMAINDER OF SEASON
ISU sophomore guard Gary Chivichyan will not play again this season, the school’s athletic department said Tuesday. Chivichyan has missed the Bengals’ last nine games with a groin injury and will apply for a medical hardship waiver after the season.
Players must have been unable to play in 70 percent of their team’s games because of injury to qualify for the extra year of eligibility. If ISU plays the minimum 31-game regular-season and conference tournament schedule, Chivichyan’s seven games will put him at 22.6 percent participation for the season.
Chivichyan averaged 7.6 points in 20.9 minutes per game this season and is one of ISU’s top outside shooting threats, making 3-pointers at 40.5 percent. Junior forward Robert Jones III (leg) and junior guard Hayes Garrity (academics) are also unavailable against Northern Colorado.
SCOUTING NORTHERN COLORADO
The Bears are second in the Big Sky in opponent field goal percentage (43.7) and rebounding margin (plus-2.3). UNC is last in the league with a minus-2.24 turnover margin and 61.5 free-throw percentage.
Sophomore guard Jordan Davis is fourth in the conference in scoring at 19.9 points per game and top in assists per game with 5.5. The Bears rank first in the Big Sky and 19th in Division I in nonconference strength of schedule, according to kenpom.com. Their preseason slate featured matchups with Butler, Arizona, Oklahoma and Colorado State, among others.
Northern Colorado is ineligible for postseason play this season because of self-imposed penalties stemming from an NCAA investigation into former head coach BJ Hill. Former Boise State assistant Jeff Linder was hired as Hill’s replacement May 1, 2016.