Pitt freshman forward J.J. Moore has solid debut
With J.J. Richardson already on Pitt’s roster and 2011 recruit John Johnson on the way, Pitt freshman swingman J.J. Moore needed a nickname.
His teammates call him “Twin,” an affectionate reference to his many similarities to senior wing Gilbert Brown. Coach Jamie Dixon calls him by his given name, “Jonathan.”
While J.J. Moore’s name may be a duplicate, the abilities of the 6-foot-6 small forward are somewhat singular.
“The best,” guard Ashton Gibbs said, “is yet to come.”
In the first action of his collegiate career, Moore scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half in Pitt’s 104-62 victory over Northwood (Fla.) University in an exhibition game at Petersen Events Center yesterday afternoon.
Moore, known more for his slashing moves and athleticism, shot 5 of 8 from the field and made three 3-pointers. He also scored on a jumper from the top of the key and a driving finger roll.
“In the first half, I was a little shaky and a little nervous,” Moore said. “When I first got in, I shot a quick shot and that just threw me off. I just stayed patient. In the second half, I got my motor going. My teammates told me to just keep my composure and play like I usually play.”
Northwood coach Rollie Massimino, the former longtime Villanova coach, was impressed.
“I watched him in practice and he was really making a lot of dunks,” he said. “I didn’t think he could shoot the ball like that.”
In its first tune-up for a highly anticipated 2010-11 season, Pitt, ranked No. 5 in The Associated Press preseason poll, led Northwood, a tiny NAIA Division II school, 23-0, with 11:40 to play in the first half and was never threatened.
Gibbs scored a game-high 25 points, Brad Wanamaker had a double-double (18 points and 10 assists) and Travon Woodall had 10 points, nine assists and only one turnover in 24 minutes.
Moore came off the bench to replace senior Brad Wanamaker, who started at small forward with Gilbert Brown (hamstring) and Lamar Patterson (ankle) sidelined.
Moore had dazzled fans at the Blue Gold scrimmage Oct. 22 when he won the postgame dunk contest with a through-the-legs, tomahawk slam and a soaring dunk in which he leapt over three standing students. Moore earned three perfect 10s from the dunk contest judges — Steelers LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons and Jeff Reed.
“Obviously, there are a lot of things he can improve on,” Dixon said. “But I think it was a good start for him. He plays really hard, and that’s what’s encouraging about him. I think that’s what will continue to help him improve.”
There are uncanny resemblances between Brown and his “twin,” Moore. Brown is 6-6, 215 pounds. Moore is 6-6, 200. Both are long and athletic with remarkable leaping ability. Both of them played at South Kent (Conn.) Prep. Even their smiles are alike.
“Everybody sees that as being the twin,” Moore said. “We have a lot of similarities. We play just alike, and everything about us is good.”
Moore grew up on Long Island and, because of his height, he played center for his first three years at Brentwood High School. He was a standout at summer camps in North Carolina and Philadelphia before attending South Kent as a senior. He picked Pitt over Louisville and St. John’s, and went on to become a consensus top-100 player in the Class of 2010, ranked as high as No. 49 player in the nation by Scout.com.
Playing in Pittsburgh’s Pro-Am Summer League, Moore was named to the all-freshman team and scored 25 points in the championship game.
Moore is working more on his defense, the trait that will assure him playing time as a true freshman.
“I am focusing more on my defensive end,” Moore said, “but Coach knows — and he sees — that I can also provide him with offense.”