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How Picking Up Trash Helped Chicago's Isaiah Moss Become An Iowa Starter

By Justin Breen | January 11, 2017 6:09am
 Iowa's Isaiah Moss graduated from Simeon and faring well in the Big Ten.
Isaiah Moss
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CHICAGO — Isaiah Moss said the only reason he's starting for Iowa this year is the value of endless hard work he learned from his parents, Mike and Angie.

Since birth, the Simeon graduate has watched his mom and dad run a series of businesses — first a communications company, then as owners of apartment buildings and single-family homes on the South Side. Since he was 11 years old, Moss has been helping his parents clean those buildings, picking up garbage, sweeping the hallways, washing windows and making sure vacant units were spotless.

He also spent countless hours walking Chicago streets with his dad and older brother, Michael — now a player at St. Joseph's College — passing out "for rent" brochures door to door, mile after mile.

 Iowa's Isaiah Moss, a Simeon grad, has been a hard worker since he was a baby, according to his dad, Mike. Moss' jersey for his youth basketball team is retired.
Iowa's Isaiah Moss, a Simeon grad, has been a hard worker since he was a baby, according to his dad, Mike. Moss' jersey for his youth basketball team is retired.
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Moss family

So after redshirting last season, he put his head down and went to work.

"That's why I'm here now," said the 6-foot-5 Moss, who's started 11 of the Hawkeyes' 17 games, including all four Big Ten contests heading into Thursday's tilt versus No. 17 Purdue. "And that's why I'm so close with my family because that's all I did as a young man was work alongside them. You just had to fall in line. There was no other choice, seeing how hard everybody else worked."

Mike Moss graduated from Bowen High School but never went to college. That didn't stop him and his wife — a Robert Morris University alumna who Isaiah said would stay awake for two to three days straight working on various projects — from owning their enterprises.

"My drive comes from the grace of God, but in life, either you get a degree or you outwork people with a degree," said Mike Moss, who lives Downtown. "I found my niche, and I outworked them. That's what I did."

He said that of his five children, Isaiah — the youngest — is the hardest worker. The family used to live in south suburban Frankfort, and when Mike wanted to create a large pond in his front yard, he had an eighth-grade Isaiah dig the majority of the 4-foot-deep hole.

"You put any task in front of Isaiah, he's going to get it accomplished," Mike Moss said.

When Moss wasn't working, he was playing basketball, and the Hawkeye has excelled at every level. His uniform No. 24 is retired by his youth club, the Frankfort Warriors. He was a standout at Simeon and for the Mac Irvin Fire AAU team.

Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said Moss has made monumental strides already at the college level.

“Isaiah has taken his game up to another level in terms of aggressiveness," McCaffery said. "He moves his feet well defensively. He's making more plays off the dribble. I’m proud of him.”

He's loved the game his whole life. In eighth grade, Moss was chasing his brother outside when he slipped on a patch of ice and crashed through one of his home's windows. The glass sliced into an artery on his left hand, and he was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery. Before the surgery, the doctor asked if Moss had any questions, and he asked if he would be able to play basketball again.

"He was about to die, and that's what he wanted to know," Mike Moss said.

Moss said 25 to 30 family members and friends will attend Sunday's game at Northwestern — a rare return to the Chicago area.

"I can't wait to go home and play in front of all the people that I love," he said.

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