MISSOULA — Aanen Moody has quickly captivated the hearts of Montana Griz basketball fans.
Lately, when he scores, the call and response of his name "Aan-en" and "Mood-y" has taken ahold of Dahlberg Arena, as Moody has solidified himself as a fan favorite.
"I just try to cultivate joy, because I feel like whatever I do with joy, whether that's being a husband, a dad, or school and education, whatever you do with joy, you're going to be better at," Moody said.
In his first season at UM after transferring from Southern Utah, Moody is Montana’s leading scorer at 15.5 points per game, and is shooting 41.5% from 3-point range.
But it’s his high energy, and flair-for-the-dramatic personality, that has drawn fans to him so quickly. From egging the crowd on with blown kisses, waving his arms, or clapping his hands, Moody is always keeping fans engaged in the game.
I like this Moody kid from @MontanaGrizBB 🤔🤝 he play with passion and like he really wanna win
— Ahmaad Rorie (@ahmaadrorie) February 12, 2023
“I just watch some of the professionals at the highest level like Stephen Curry and just how much joy he plays with, and I think the antics that come with that are just a byproduct of joy where I'm just having fun," he said. "And a kiss might be blown, or two.”
Even though, it hasn’t always been this way.
“I remember, I was in fourth or fifth grade playing tackle football for my first year, and I go in for the game-winning touchdown, and I put my finger up and I got a flag and I basically was told never to do that again," Moody said with a laugh. "So where I'm coming from it's not common that anybody does this type of stuff.”
"It used to be those (high-energy) guys were popular and they were common because so many young men stayed in the programs they were at," UM coach Travis DeCuire added. "The places that had tradition that drew fans, got a chance to get to know those young men and cheer for them and kind of encourage that. With so much movement, it's almost difficult for anyone to get used to anyone.
"I don't know that Moody expected that from our fanbase, and I don't know that our fanbase expected that in Moody. It's been awhile since they've seen a guy like him that plays the ball the right way, emotions are used the right way. More in terms of a celebration of what we are doing moreso than look at me. So I think it's been the perfect storm on both sides."
But while Moody’s fun-loving attitude and strong play has the Grizzlies riding a five-game winning streak, he’s playing for something more.
“When I was shooting the free throws at Weber State, my parents told me that the announcer had said something like, 'These two free throws aren't going to be very much to Aanen Moody, he has two kids at home so he has bigger fish to fry,' and that's kind of how I look at basketball," Moody said. "And I've kind of let go of this dependency on basketball because I depend on my family.”
That family would be 3-year-old Asher, 11-week-old Kai, as well as his wife, Gabby.
Griz fans see him as the team’s star player, but at home, he’s someone more special.
“It's honestly the most amazing experience in the world to wake up every morning to somebody calling you dad," Moody said.
After two seasons at Southern Utah — and three years at North Dakota before that — Moody, who hails from Dickinson, North Dakota, always admired UM's program from afar. When the opportunity presented itself, he transferred to Montana to be closer to family, because his, was growing.
His parents, Dave and Kay, have been able to help him and Gabby take care of their two young sons while Moody pursues his college basketball career with the Griz. While a redshirt senior this year with a degree in health and exercise science from Southern Utah, Moody joined UM with two years of eligibility remaining.
"The first born was definitely a lot more intense, because I hadn't been in the situation before," Moody said. "But luckily I've had great parents that have always been there for me, and they just reiterated that they will be there for me, and they were. And same thing with Kai this time around. My parents, they're at games, they're at the apartment almost every week, and when my wife goes back to school, then my mom's going to be here full time being grandma. It's been pretty easy."
Sleep comes at a premium, but he happily trades that for life’s little moments.
“People talk about servant leadership, but being a father is servant leadership, because, when my baby wakes up in the morning and is crying, and I pick him up and you bottle feed him, then you take care of him, you set him down, he cries again, you pick him up," Moody explained. "There's nothing that you get out of that exchange from him, but you feel so good being able to serve your kids and to be able to provide for them.”
It’s been a unique first year at Montana, as Moody missed three games for Kai’s birth back in November. But now, he’s rolling with the red-hot Grizzlies, and through the good and bad, his biggest fans are in his corner every step of the way.
“The best thing about that is win or lose, my kid doesn't care," Moody said. "He doesn't care about anything except seeing dad after the game and he just wants to play. So whether I'm in a good or bad mood, he's always there to actually help me out.”