Angi Butler sees a familiar sight these days when she watches her former star pupil on TV – one she’s waited anxiously for.
“That’s the Moon Ursin who played for Destrehan High,” said Butler, the former head coach of the Ladycats. “This is who she is. She’s finding her groove and it makes my heart so happy to see.”
Ursin, who was Louisiana’s very first three-time Gatorade Player of the Year as a prep basketball sensation at DHS, largely waited her turn for her first three seasons at Baylor, contributing as a valuable reserve to the powerhouse program. That included key late game action in the 2019 National Championship game, where she helped the Bears score the NCAA Championship by garnering a stop on Notre Dame star Arike Ogunbowale on the night’s final possession.
But after a COVID-shortened junior year, Ursin blossomed into a star as a senior, among the leaders of a Baylor team looking to repeat as National Champion.
This season, Ursin is averaging 12 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. She’s shooting 48 percent from the field and 38 percent from 3-point range. She remains an elite defensive player.
“I think her confidence is the difference,” said Butler, who coached Ursin’s 2017 Destrehan squad to a 35-0 season and Class 5A state championship. “I think she finally believes in herself. There was a point where she was beginning to doubt who she was as a player, what she brought to the team … if basketball was even for her. She was really in unknown territory … she’d never come off the bench before, not in AAU, not in middle school. She said she felt like she was letting everyone down because she wasn’t scoring 20 points a game.”
Butler expressed her own confidence in Moon’s game – “you’ll be one of the very best to come through Baylor before it’s all said and done” – and those words have proven predictive. Ursin starts for one of the nation’s strongest teams, and she’s a bonafide go-to player for them.
Certainly, in Baylor’s opening round NCAA tournament win over Jackson State, Ursin showed off the well-rounded skills Destrehan observers grew to appreciate. She scored 24 points, pulled down six rebounds and tallied three assists, two blocks and a steal. She shot 9-for-14 from the floor, 3-for-4 from 3-point range.
It was a little bit of everything.
“She gets in there,” said Butler. “She’s physically strong, mentally strong and emotionally strong. Where some girls are timid, she won’t be, because of her passion for the game.
Ursin during her senior year at Destrehan“Moon’s a finisher. She understands the importance of lose and go home (in the postseason). At Destrehan, we lost three times before we won it all. She grew from it and she’s a here and now player. She’s gonna do what it takes to get her team where it needs to be.”
Her mental and emotional strength, perhaps, cannot be understated. She made this leap not just through her own self-doubt, but through tremendous personal strife.
Two years ago, Ursin lost her grandfather, Clarence Alexander, learning of his death just hours after scoring 13 points in a conference tournament win over Texas Tech. A year later, Ursin’s grandmother, Ruby Alexander, who passed away after battling COVID-19. She was extremely close with both and their losses emotionally taxing – Butler said Ursin told her after her performance against Jackson State that her grandmother would have been so proud of her.
This year brought another tragic blow. Moon’s stepbrother, Eric, passed away of pneumonia. He was just 23 years old.
“She’s lost three in two years,” said Butler, fighting back tears. “Bless her heart.”
As much as she hurts over it, Ursin channels her emotions on the court.
“Before, she had a reason to play. Now, she has a purpose,” Butler said. “All she has gone through, she decided to make something positive out of something so tragic. She takes all of it and puts her heart and soul into her play.”
Everyone’s beginning to notice, including the WNBA. Butler said Ursin has been getting interest from teams, something the Bears star thought might never become reality as recently as a season ago.
“It’s the icing on the cake,” Butler said. “The player she is right now … this is who she always was. She didn’t believe it. And now she does.”