American's Vlad Moldoveanu has come a long way from Romania

Vlad Moldoveanu came to the Washington area to play at St. John's High School, then signed with George Mason University before transferring to American University.
Vlad Moldoveanu came to the Washington area to play at St. John's High School, then signed with George Mason University before transferring to American University. (By Joel Richardson For The Washington Post)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 11, 2011; 9:37 PM

Fittingly, Carmen Tocala was at American University's Bender Arena on Saturday for Vlad Moldoveanu's finest hour, a 39-point performance against Lehigh.

For most of the past six years, 5,000 miles and hectic lives have separated mother and son. Basketball, however, had forged an unbreakable bond. And on a rare visit to Washington last week, the former Romanian women's star, who now oversees the sport in her homeland, witnessed her only child, now a 6-foot-9 senior forward with a sweet shooting touch, enter the AU record book with the seventh-highest scoring output in program history.

"She was happy, she was proud," Moldoveanu said with a slight smile.

His mother knows her hoops. After playing in the Romanian league and for the national team, she coached on both levels. For the past six years, she has served as president of the country's basketball federation.

As a child, Vlad would attend practices and games, fueling his passion for the sport. Soon, he craved a basketball instead of a soccer ball. When she was coaching Sportul Studentesc, a club in Bucharest, he would shoot at a side basket and join drill sessions.

His stepfather, Petre Branisteanu, played professionally and represented Romania the last time the nation qualified for the European championship, in 1987. His aunt was also an elite player.

"I was going from practice to practice to practice," Moldoveanu recalled. "It was a great time. I was doing what I loved doing. I never thought I had to play basketball; I was just playing. Like every kid plays with his toys, my toy was a basketball."

It's a toy that has never grown old. From a European upbringing to teenage years in Washington, from a reserve role at George Mason for 1½ years to a luminous position at AU for two, Moldoveanu has forged his own basketball identity.

Last weekend's uprising, which lifted the Eagles (11-5, 1-0 Patriot League) to a fourth consecutive victory heading into Wednesday night's showdown with visiting Bucknell (10-7, 1-0), was the most by an AU player in 18 years.

Moldoveanu was named the conference's player of the week for the fourth time this season and seventh overall, one shy of the league record. He was also named U.S. Basketball Writers Association Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week and East Coast Athletic Conference Player of the Week.

In the past seven games, he has averaged 25.1 points and shot 93 percent from the free throw line, 52 percept from the field and 50 percent on three-pointers. His 21.3-point average is by far the highest in the region and No. 12 nationally.

"I don't know if there's anyone else in the league with that combination of skill and size," Lehigh Coach Brett Reed said.

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