Basketball Preview: Moore impressing early

By Alex Oltmanns

J. J. Moore came to Pitt this summer as a highly touted recruit out of South Kent Prep in… J. J. Moore came to Pitt this summer as a highly touted recruit out of South Kent Prep in Connecticut.

Yet his name might still have been relatively unknown on campus for the better part of September and October.

But any anonymity surrounding Moore quickly vanished, at least amongst basketball fans, after his impressive performances in the team’s slam dunk contest and first exhibition game.

Rim-rattling dunks are his forte, as evidenced by his conquest of the dunk contest where he dunked over three students lined up in a row, but Pitt fans are starting to see that there’s much more to his game than dunking.

After Moore scored 17 points on 5 for 8 shooting, including 3-of-5 from 3-point range in Pitt’s exhibition win over Northwood last Sunday, Seahawks coach Rollie Massimino was impressed by Moore’s overall game.

“I watched him in practice, and he was really making a lot of dunks. I didn’t think he could shoot the ball like that,” Massimino said. “But he’s certainly showed extremely good poise for a freshman and shot the ball extremely well.”

Moore credits his improved shooting to working hard since he was a young player growing up on Long Island. It’s that work ethic that has Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon optimistic that Moore will continue to get better.

“He brings a lot of energy to practice, and he plays hard, too,” Dixon said. “That’s the thing that really attracted us to him — watching him play while recruiting him. I think that’s what’s going to continue to help him improve.”

Pitt wasn’t the only college keen on Moore while he was in high school — Louisville, Connecticut and a handful of other Big East teams were actively recruiting him as well. He averaged 24 points and 10 rebounds per game in his senior season against premier prep school competition.

Moore showed off his skills and hard work right away this summer, arriving on campus early to work out with the team before its trip to Ireland.

“It helped me get to know the team more and how they play and also knowing the coaching staff,” he said. “If I wasn’t able to come early then I wouldn’t be able to be where I’m at right now. Just knowing the offense and knowing how Coach wants everything to be done.”

It wasn’t just the summer months on the court that eased the adjustment from life at home to life at Pitt. Senior Gilbert Brown has helped, as well.

Many comparisons have been made between the two — whether it be that they hail from the same high school, have similar physical features or the fact that they play in a similar manner.

Brown has taken it upon himself to serve as a mentor for the young freshman.

“On and off the court I try and play a big brother role for him because it’s a different type of atmosphere here in college and a lot of kids aren’t used to it,” Brown said. “You have to mature very fast.”

And it seems as if Moore is maturing faster than most. He led the team in scoring in two of the six games it played in Ireland and frequently scored in double figures.

The 6-foot-6, 190-pound freshman describes himself as an effective slasher to the basket, much like Brown, and it looks as if he will contribute right away as a small forward this season for the Panthers.

But if you want to get playing time on Dixon’s teams, you’re also going to have to be effective on defense — something that Moore is working on.

“The thing I have to work on is playing on-the-ball defense,” he said. “I’m more of a help-defensive player.”