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2020 NCAA Inspiration Award: Trey Moses

Ball State basketball star used personal struggles and a tragedy as a springboard to help others

by Alexis Bussey

After leading the Mid-American Conference in blocks during his sophomore season, Trey Moses was eager to share the court with best friend and Ball State teammate, Zach Hollywood, who was a redshirt freshman during Moses’ breakout campaign. The duo were inseparable, bonding over commonalities that ran deeper than a shared love of the game: Hollywood and Moses both faced enduring struggles with their mental health and shared a passion for working with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Their dream of playing together, though, was cut short. On Aug. 22, 2017, the second day of his junior year, Moses woke up to four missed calls and two voicemails from Hollywood. In a rush for class, Moses called and sent texts back to no avail. Later, Moses went to Hollywood’s apartment, where he discovered his friend had committed suicide. Riddled with remorse, Moses tweeted: “I'm sorry I was asleep and couldn’t answer man, I feel I coulda stopped it. ... I love you bro, we’re gonna make it.”

Trey Moses

Moses subsequently dedicated his last two seasons of college basketball to his friend, changing his jersey number from 41 to Hollywood’s 24. Jarred into action by Hollywood’s death, and with the help of his “care team” — a group of mental health professionals on campus, family, teammates, a minister and a coach — Moses has felt empowered to vocalize his own mental health challenges for the sake of helping others. Amid ongoing battles with depression and coping with loss, Moses has learned “it’s OK not to be OK.”

“Once I started to open up, I realized I have this platform that’s actually making an impact on people’s lives,” Moses says. “People started looking at me and thinking, ‘If he can go through it and he can deal with it, then I can do the same.’ That’s what has kept me going this entire time.” By the summer of 2018, Moses began to transform his pain into his platform. Following an invitation to participate in a sport mission trip with the nonprofit Athletes in Action, Moses traveled to New Zealand. In just 10 days there, Moses played eight games in two cities, stopping to share his story at halftime with more than 500 people in a country with one of the highest suicide rates in the world.

“He’s always been someone who has had a soft spot in his heart for people he views as vulnerable or could use a helping hand,” says James Whitford, Ball State men’s basketball coach. “He takes great pride in using the platform he gets as an athlete.”

The experience in New Zealand revitalized Moses’ passion for service, spurring him to revisit the work that had been the foundation of his friendship with Hollywood. Since high school, Moses has donated time to Best Buddies, an organization designed to enhance the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Two of his buddies with Down syndrome, Luke Vormohr and Mickey Deputy, joined him on the court last March for his senior night ceremony.

“There are so many different levels to him,” says Jenny Deputy, Mickey’s mother. “He’s very compassionate, very caring, very shy. When he gives himself, he gives everything he’s got.”

Moses first met Mickey through Ball State’s Dance Marathon, a fundraising event that brings students together to support Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis. During his time at Ball State, Moses served on the Riley Relations Committee, where he worked with families of sick children.

For his last Dance Marathon, Moses vowed to get a special tattoo designed by Mickey if he reached his goal of raising $5,000. Moses now flaunts the “FTK” tattoo that Mickey designed (meaning “for the kids.”) The tattoo is one of many that tell Moses’ life story, including the two etched into his skin that commemorate Hollywood. In May 2019, Moses graduated with a degree in child development and signed his first professional basketball contract with BC Beroe in Bulgaria. Following his professional basketball career, Moses aspires to become a preschool teacher, enabling him to influence children’s lives full time.

“My goal every single day is to impact as many people in a positive light as possible,” Moses says. “If I just save one life, I know that my job is done.”

Trey Moses will be honored with a 2020 NCAA Inspiration Award on Wednesday, Jan. 22, at the NCAA Honors Celebration in Anaheim, California. The award is presented to a coach or administrator currently associated with intercollegiate athletics, or to a current or former varsity letter winner at an NCAA institution. It is reserved for people who used perseverance, dedication and determination to overcome a life-altering situation, and most importantly, are role models giving hope and inspiration to others.