Very little ever got in Marcus Moore’s way.
Faced with an obstacle, Washington State University’s senior point guard could usually flash that Crest-friendly smile or whip around it with an ankle-buckling crossover dribble.
But last summer nothing, not the movie star smile, not the Mach 3 quickness, could get Moore where he wanted to be-into the first round of the National Basketball Association draft.
So after taking trips to predraft camps in Chicago and Portsmouth, Virginia, and not being assured a spot in the first round–guaranteeing a contract–Moore thought it over. He talked to his family in Inglewood, California, and decided to return for his final campaign in Pullman.
“It was never set where I was going to go [in the draft],” Moore says. “I knew I could come back [to WSU] if I needed to. I talked to my mom and dad, and it was a pretty easy decision to make.”
Not that anyone would have blamed Moore if he had decided to take his chances with the draft or headed overseas to pursue his professional aspirations.
With Dick Bennett being named the Cougars’ new coach last spring, and the prospect of playing his senior year in an unfamiliar system, it was almost expected and entirely understandable if Moore didn’t return.
Only, a funny thing happened. Moore did what he thought would benefit him the most in the long run. And that did not include a circuitous route to the NBA through the minor league hinterlands of the NBDL, CBA, or any other alphabet league.
“To tell the truth, we went about things not expecting him back,” Bennett says. “We were led to believe by a number of people that he was very likely to leave. Marcus was up front with us and wanted the chance to go.”
And when Moore decided to return, he did with an open mind, despite some initial misconceptions about Bennett’s style of play.
“It’s a different approach,” Moore says. ‘I don’t think we play a boring style of play. We slow things down, because we want to get things right. We want to get good shots.”
Bennett, who took Wisconsin to the Final Four in 2000, employs a disciplined style of play, emphasizing defense and a patient offense that takes high percentage shots. It’s been called ugly and boring, but it works.
And most of Bennett’s new charges-including Moore–were used to a more freewheeling approach under former coach Paul Graham.
“It’s been a bit of struggle, not just with Marcus, but with others like [guard] Randy Green, as well,” Bennett says. “They’ve been playing this way for a few years now, and they have their habits, and it’s hard to break those.
“But Marcus probably has had to make the most change. I have to give him a lot of a credit. He’s had to come in here and work harder than he’s had to before.”
The gifted six-foot-six, 220-pound athlete ranks among WSU’s top 10 in career scoring, assists, and steals at WSU. He’s seen his scoring go down-from 18.2 points per game to 13.8 this season-but is averaging a team-leading 3.8 assists and 1.83 steals per game.
His ability to see the floor and make plays has never been in question, but now Moore is just as likely to slip a no-look pass to a cutting teammate, as he is to launch a three-pointer.
“I’m learning to take the best shot available,” Moore says. “I’ve had to adjust a little. But I still come out and play as hard as I possibly can. I obviously look to try and be a leader. As a basketball player, I know this is good for me and us.”
Bennett realizes Moore’s return has given him a difference-maker in his first season of Pac-10 play. He also believes it couldn’t have worked out better for Moore’s professional future.
“I think it can help him try to reach his long-range goals,” Bennett says. “When he plays a more free style of play, it exposes some of his weaknesses. I think he’s more selective now, and he understands. I must tell you, I’ve had no difficulties with him. We get along well-he’s an enjoyable player to be around.”