Key to Blue Devil success is more Moore
West Memphis sophomore Chris Moore averages over 14 points a game so far this season
By Billy Woods
WM School District A year later, Chris Moore confesses his tepid response to getting moved up to the high school varsity- Last season Moore became the first known West Memphis ninth-grader to be promoted to the high school varsity, where he eventually became the team's leading scorer and rebounder on the Blue Devils' 24-6 squad.
'I'm not going to tell you a story, I was a little scared,' Moore recalls about the move. 'Moving up to that stage was like a real big thing for me. The first game I had to get the jitters out. I had already said yes to the commitment, but it ended up being a very fun year.'
Moore is once again leading the Blue Devils in scoring and rebounding as the team heads into Saturday's Class 6A state championship game against Jonesboro. The two teams meet for the fourth time this season at 12:45 p.m. at the Hot Springs Convention Center.
The 6-foot-6 sophomore is averaging 14.1 points and 7.3 rebounds for the 28-3 Blue Devils.
'Last year I think I would give myself a B-plus overall,' he said. 'I think there were some things I could have done last year that could have gotten us to the state championship game.'
Last season's individual success only led to Moore being met with gimmick defenses and a lot of double- teams this year.
'I've had to expand my game and learn how to confuse the defense,' said Moore, who also averages nearly 3 blocked shots per game. 'Coach (Marcus Brown) told me at the beginning of the year I would be the target for every team. They would try to foul me out or try to triple-team me in the low post. He told me to just try and play through it. Not every game is going to be my best game. It took a little toll on me, but I just had to get used to it.'
Moore first caught the attention of Division 1 college coaches before his ninth-grade season. Last year alone he earned scholarship offers from the University of Memphis, SMU, TCU, Southern Miss and Marquette.
The University of Arkansas hasn't offered a scholarship yet, but head coach Mike Anderson and his staff are highly interested. Anderson sent assistant coach Melvin Watkins to a Blue Devil preseason practice this season to watch Moore.
The recruiting process has been mostly fun, according to Moore.
'You know one day the ball will stop bouncing for me, so for right now I consider it a blessing to be able to talk to college coaches who are interested in me,' he said. 'Some of the colleges that have offered me or shown interest in me might not be some of the most well-known schools like Kentucky, Duke or North Carolina, but getting offers from some of these schools…some of them have the best programs around.'
Brown has often referred to his prize sophomore as being in 'rarefied air.' At 66, Moore is already considered the best low-post player in Arkansas, but he also knows he will have to develop his perimeter game for college, where he will have to face-up and shoot from mid-range or deeper.
But right now, Moore is a definite impact player in the middle for the Blue Devils, who will be going for the school's seventh state championship.
Moore's shot-blocking ability discourages the opposition from entering the lane.
And it will surely force Jonesboro to make deep jumpers on Saturday, where guards Desi Sills and Tony Hutson have that ability.
'Shot-blocking is really just a timing thing,' said Moore. 'I've studied some of the old-timers like Wilt Chamberlain and some of the guys today like LeBron (James). I really love watching LeBron. Serge Ibaka is one of the best and he teaches you how to time it. You have to study the game. Some things you just can't make up on your own.
You have to study what the greats are doing because that's the only way you're going to get better.'
Blue Devils' Chris Moore flushes one against Pine Bluff this season.
Photo by Billy Woods