Jason Hills – Manager, Marketing & Communications of The Edmonton Stingers
When Xavier Moon made his return back to Edmonton in late June, one of the first stops he made before his first Stingers practice was to the post office to pick up a new pair of shoes he had ordered.
Moon immediately took the shoes out of the box and took a moment to write a small message on his left and right side of his size 13 shoes.
It simply reads #RIPECW on the left and #TGBTG (To God Be The Glory) on the right. Small messages, but ones that mean so much to Moon.
Often, pro athletes use their platform to pay tribute to a family member or friend, but it’s usually for just a game, in that moment and then it fades away from the spotlight.
But for the Edmonton Stingers star point guard, it’s a message he carries with him on every pair of shoes he practices and plays in.
It’s his way of honouring his stepfather Elbert Clyde Wilson, who was murdered in an act of gun violence on Apr.20, 2016.
Wilson was gunned down by his neighbour, while outside cutting his grass.
“He was one of the best men that I’ve ever idolized. When it happened, it hurt a lot,”said Moon.
“He was the first guy my Momma married. Growing up my Mom would talk to men and I never approved of any of them, but when Mr. Clyde came around, I knew I’d like him. He always made my Mom smile and he treated my brother (Namari) and sister (Maneia) like they were his and he treated me the same.”
Wilson’s killer, Franklin Price was was sentenced to 30 years in prison. His death had a big impact on Moon and his family.
“He wouldn’t harm a fly, and now I just look at life a lot different,” said Moon.
“There will be people who don’t like you for whatever reason, and I just try to live day-to-day and make sure myself and my family live our life to the fullest, because your life can be taken at any point.
“I just try to pick up where he left off. I know I’m not him, but all the qualities that he had I try to emulate. He made my Mom the happiest I ever saw, and I salute him for that.
“He was such a big role model for my brother and sister and that’s my role now. Even though I’m not there to be around them often, I call them every day to see how they’re doing and give them encouragement.”
Moon uses the game of basketball to not only fulfill his passion, but as an outlet to help inspire others to chase their dreams and be a positive influence in their lives.
When he arrived in Edmonton in May, he made a commitment to not just make an impact on the court, but in the community. Moon immediately became a fan favourite and the fans fully embraced him.
Despite missing seven games with a foot injury, Moon captured the first-ever Canadian Elite Basketball League Player of the Year as the league’s leading scorer recording 19.9 points per game. He finished second in the league in assists (5.8), second in steals (2.0) and second in three-point shooting percentage (43.1) and was named a CEBL first-team all-star.
But his impact didn’t stop there. Moon won the Stingers inaugural Community Ambassador Award.
“I know I’m not from (Edmonton), but while I’m playing here, this is my home and I want to give back to my community any way I can,” said Moon.
During his first season in Edmonton, Moon helped out at kids’ basketball camps and community events, but he arguably made his biggest impact with the Boys and Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters of Edmonton and area.
In a visit to the McCauley Boys and Girls Club, he met a 13-year-old boy named Nishone, and the two bonded over basketball.
Their bond didn’t break after that first visit. Moon connected with Nishone and the two talked every day, and Moon invited Nishone and his mom to the rest of the Stingers home games — and they didn’t miss one.
Moon brought Nishone on the court to take part in the Stingers warm-up every game and gave him a tour of the locker room and introduced him to the players after the game.
It became their game day ritual.
“Giving back is a big part of our job as basketball players. It’s more than just basketball,” said Moon.
“I told him ‘do you want to come and shoot and rebound for us?’ and he was like ‘I’ll do whatever you need’ and he had a big smile on his face.
“Doing something small like that could change his life. Any way I can change someone’s life, be a big brother, I’m going to do it. He texts me every day, we talk about basketball and life and I just want to be there for him any way I can.”
Showing that type of character and values was passed on from Moon’s step father and his family.
Moon grew up in Goodwater, Al, a small town of just 1,324. He was primarily raised by his grandma Ruby Thomas, Great-Grandmother Delphine Thomas and his Great-Grandfather Frank Thomas. His Mom, Michelle Wilson, lived in both Alabama and Indiana for the majority of his childhood.
Having positive role models in his home life has carried over into adulthood as Moon wants to be a positive role model for not just his family, but teammates and fans he encounters on his basketball journey.
“They taught me a lot, especially when it comes to respect. It’s instilled in me to always say ‘yes ma’am, no ma’am. I take that wherever I go,” said Moon.
“I give them a lot of credit for the man I am today, and the basketball player I’ve become.”
The game of basketball has been good to Moon, but he’s had to work for every ounce of respect and reward he’s been given on the court.
Listed at six-foot-two, and just 165-pounds; Moon is considered small, but he never used his size as an excuse.
He earned a basketball scholarship to Northwest Florida State College and then Morehead State. He has never let it be an excuse in his two years of professional basketball.
His elite-level ball handling and vision are what can separate him on the court.
“Growing up, it was me and my basketball. If you saw me on the street, I always had my basketball. People would see me around town dribbling and they would say to me that I was going to do something special with basketball,” said Moon.
“I’ve always had to play with a chip on my shoulder. Coming out of high school I wasn’t highly recruited. I was always brushed off and always had to prove myself and show people I belong, but I’ve never looked at my height as a bad thing. I just knew I’d have to put in more work than others around me.
“I tell kids now, that if you want something you have to put forth the effort.”
Family’s played a significant role in providing guidance for Moon off the court. Family is also at the forefront with helping him develop on the court.
The drive to achieve greatness and no quit attitude on the basketball court comes from his Uncle Jamario Moon, who spent six years in the NBA (2007-12) with the Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Clippers and Charlotte Hornets.
The 24-year-old wants nothing more than to live his NBA dream.
“My uncle’s always been in my corner. We talk on a day-to-day basis. He’s just like a big brother to me,” said Moon.
“He made the (NBA) when he was 27. He didn’t give up on his dream and I’m not going to give up on mine. Who’s to say I can’t do the same?
“He worked hard to build his path and I saw what all he went through to achieve that, so I feel I can do the same thing, and that’s what I’m working towards doing.”
When the Stingers inaugural season wrapped up last month, Moon returned home to Alabama to continue to train. It didn’t take long as he received two NBA G-League tryout opportunities with the Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Lakers.
Moon will attend the Raptors 905 training camp at the end of September.
Moon also signed his player option letter with an intent to return to the Stingers for the 2020 season.
“The ultimate goal is the NBA, that’s what I’m trying to get to. That’s the big goal right now, but it’s all about setting small goals and building up,” said Moon.
“I’d like to make the G-League this year. My uncle got his opportunity and took advantage of it, and I know if get mine, I will do the same. I’ve been working too hard for it.”
Wherever Moon’s basketball journey takes him over the next few years, he’ll no doubt leave an impact and lasting impression on the court and in the community.
“Character takes you further than talent. I always try to carry myself the right way,” said Moon.
“I’m always smiling and happy, because I’m lucky enough to be doing what I love. Nobody can steal my joy.”