There might not be a more perfect nickname for Malcolm Brogdon than the one his two older brothers gave him years ago.
They call the Virginia guard Humble Moses. It makes sense because Brogdon is modest and his middle name is Moses. He’s also a leader.
The redshirt senior, who was a first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference pick last season while averaging 14 points a game and played for Team USA in the Pan American Games this summer, is entering his fifth and final year at Virginia, which is ranked sixth in the Preseason Coaches Poll. In this time, he’s helped coach Tony Bennett restore a program that regularly competes among the ACC’s elite and for national titles.
And while putting in work on the court, Brogdon also has been pursuing his master’s degree in public policy from the renowned Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.
Somehow, he finds the time.
“People don’t realize how motivated he is,” Bennett says. “I think his nickname is awesome because Moses was one of the humblest men. He was the prince of Egypt and had great courage going to Pharaoh. That’s like Malcolm. He’s very driven, very purposeful in what he does, but he has a humility and is unaffected by things that come his way. He has a plan, and he’s going to stay true to who he is.
“He knows what his future is about, and he’s going to make a difference.”
That future consists of a career in the NBA — he’s listed as a second-round pick in some mock drafts but could improve his stock this season — and using the money he earns to fulfill a deeper passion: creating a non-governmental organization (NGO) to help alleviate poverty and hunger in third-world countries.
When Brogdon was 10, he went to Ghana with his family for three weeks. Five years later, he went to Malawi with his grandparents on a mission trip where they delivered school supplies to children. The trips changed his life.
“It made me realize what I have, what we have as a country, what we take for granted, and what people in other countries really need,” Brogdon says. “Before I went to Ghana I was really young, but I hadn’t realized people were actually starving every day. That just never occurred to me. That experience was really shocking and compelling for me. It made me really want to make a change when I was able to and had the resources to.”
In his graduate school classes, Brogdon is learning the processes he’d have to go through to establish a clean water system in Uganda, for example. He’s taking a class called Congress 101 as well as Psychology of Leadership.
Brogdon has thought about working for the Clinton Foundation or the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to gain more experience in how NGOs with a lot of money work, so he perhaps could build one from the ground up some day.
“When I first tell them, they’re surprised. But now they understand that I’m trying to go after my dreams,” he says about what his teammates and coaches think of his plans. “I have dreams after basketball. There are issues I want to attack in the real world.”
Bennett’s support runs deep. It’s one of the reasons Brogdon committed to Virginia. He knew the coach would allow him to take full advantage of the academic opportunities.
Bennett changes the team’s practice schedule to accommodate Brogdon’s classes. He has 2 1/2-hour seminars that are offered once a week and can’t change, so Bennett is flexible.
“To me, it’s worth it,” Bennett says. “Malcolm has been such an important part of this program, and if we can help serve him, we can make some adjustments.”
Brogdon’s days are jam-packed, and there’s not much downtime. He says he gets perhaps one or two hours to himself at night and watches movies to decompress.
Brogdon lives alone in prestigious on-campus housing units in a building originally designed and built by Thomas Jefferson. Hundreds of students apply for 40 spots in Jefferson’s Academical Village — which is called The Range for graduate students — and are chosen by a selection committee. According to the UVa website, this area of housing is reserved for the university’s most accomplished graduate students, some of whom are pursuing careers as physicists, lawyers or surgeons. Edgar Allan Poe lived on The Range in 1826.
Each Range room is humbly furnished with a twin bed, desk, chair, dresser and there’s a rocking chair outside. There’s a phone and Ethernet port with high-speed Internet, and a sink to brush your teeth. There’s no air conditioning and a radiator that works sometimes. Bathrooms are walking distance.
Brogdon is the first scholarship athlete to live on The Range in Bennett’s time at Virginia.
Last season didn’t turn out as planned for the Cavaliers. They ran out to a 19-0 record and a No. 2 ranking and finished the regular season 28-2. But UVa lost its ACC tournament semifinal vs. North Carolina (tied for No. 1 in the Coaches Poll) and was booted from the NCAA tournament by seventh-seeded Michigan State (No. 13) in the Round of 32.
“I really think that was a mental lapse, and that comes from fatigue,” Brogdon says. “We have to sustain what we do during the regular season. The postseason is when everything counts. The last two years we’ve relaxed after having great regular seasons. We need more of a drive.”
The good news for the Cavaliers is that nearly everyone is coming back and the program is starting out in the Top 10. Brogdon thinks it’s the best team Virginia has had in his time there.
“We’re well-rounded from top to bottom,” he says. “We have veterans, we have transfers that can play, not many freshmen, a strong senior class with good leadership, and we know what to expect. We have a defense that will carry us and a team that believes in ourselves.”
And Humble Moses will be the leader.
“He has command. A powerful voice,” Bennett says. “He’s a strong man in so many ways. He’s well-respected by his peers. I see it.
“He’s taking guys with him like, ‘We’re going to work out in the morning. I’m going to show you how to work out, how to drive.’
“To me, that’s next-level leadership.”