Monday, August 19, 2013

BACK IN THE BACKCOURT GROOVE, PSU is right fit for Delone's Moore

While other third graders were playing with Pokemon Cards and watching cartoons on Nickelodeon, Sierra Moore was in the gym.

Every day like clockwork, Moore was utilizing a patented cross-over dribble and launching a fusillade of feathery jumpers.
Partly at the relentless coaching of her father—Edwin Moore, known for his career at Divison-II Millersville and 3-point shooting which father time did little to deter—and partly at her early passion for basketball, Moore developed a game beyond her years.

 The “coach’s son” stereotypes have stood the test of time: “gym rat,” “knows the game,” “sees the floor exceptionally well,” and “limitless minutes due to obvious nepotism” are just a few of many.

 For the daughter of a devoted AAU coach, a local grass-roots pioneer in an obscure basketball area that rarely produces Division-I talent, the gym rat label holds true.
Moore dribbled around cones, dribbled through wrong-footed defenders, and later dribbled through boys who often shied away from playing her at the YMCA.

She was playing highly competitive AAU basketball in fifth grade. By the time she reached ninth grade, Moore infused Delone Catholic coach Gerry Eckenrode’s lineup with electric displays of athleticism.

Eckenrode still plucks Moore’s first varsity game from his memory.

It was at Lancaster Catholic. The then-freshman was inserted off the bench midway through the first quarter. In a matter of minutes, Moore made a pair of plays that only rarified athletes are capable of.
Eckenrode immediately turned to assistant coach Beth Felix.

A brazen, no-nonsense little fella who’s about as critical after a playoff win as he is a deflating loss, Eckenrode flashed a rare toothy smile.

"This is going to be a fun four years," the head coach said.
In those four years, Moore left a lasting imprint across Pennsylvania.

 She emerged into a McDonald’s All-American, a high-horsepower scoring guard who averaged 24.7 points as a senior, drawing double teams every step of the way.

 A versatile scoring threat, Moore attacked the rim on manipulative one-on-one takes as efficiently as she blazed to the bucket on transition leak-outs.

 A legitimate threat to snipe from beyond the arc and spread out defenses with a feathery 12-15 foot jumper. Moore is the YAIAA’s all-time leading scorer with 2, 595 career points.

 Swiftly forced into an immediate transition from guard to forward at Duke, Moore has decided a detour back to her home state was the best move. Moore, who played sparingly with the Blue Devils in 2012-2013, has transferred to Penn State.

 Playing for the Lady Lions gives Moore the freedom to play in the backcourt again. At Duke, Moore was asked to fill in for teammate Katie Heckman (sidelined by an ACL injury) at forward.

 Moore was asked by the coaching staff to fill the gap as Duke's frontline thinned out. The design was to groom Moore as a forward, allowing her to gain experience at the four and give Duke more of a post presence.

 “I’ve been a guard my whole life,” said Moore during a recent interview with Evening Sun scribe Daniel Paulling, who broke the story in late-April.

 “I felt out of my element. I needed to be a guard again.”

 Redshirting her sophomore year per NCAA transfer rules allows Moore to acclimatize to PSU's style. Essentially, practices will be equivalent to games for Moore.

 While she won't be able to travel with the team or suit up, Moore should reap rewards of the acclimation process.

 The prospect of playing a significant role at Penn State as a redshirt sophomore was more promising than playing out of place at Duke.  

 With three seasons at Happy Valley waiting in the wings, Moore’s presence should increase the local fanfare.

 With a coaching staff that scours hoops hotbeds throughout the country, the Lady Lions feature just two other in-state players.

 Maggie Lucas, a 5-foot-10 senior guard from Narberth, Pa. (Germantown Academy), returns as the most acclaimed player.

 The 2012-13 Big Ten Player of the Year, Lucas averaged a team-best 20.1 points last season.

 Penn State pieced together a 26-6 record in 2012-13, reeling off 14 victories without a loss at home. The no.3-seeded Lady Lions suffered a post-season flameout when LSU pulled off a dramatic 71-66 upset in the 2013 NCAA tournament second round.

 Back-to-back regular season Big Ten champions, PSU must replace the production of since-graduated Alex Bentley and Nikki Greene. Bentley averaged 14.1 points and piled up a team-best 112 assists last season.

 Nikki Greene, a menacing defender, was the only player in program history to score 1,000+ points while eclipsing 900 rebounds and 200 blocks in her career.

 Going against a highly-decorated, established guard of Lucas' caliber in practice should pay immediate dividends for Moore.

 During her senior season at tiny Delone, where she also starred as a sprinter on the track team, Moore played the role of combo guard. Her ability to run the point was evident during a wild PIAA Class AA second-round game against Pine Grove.

As a spate of ugly turnovers nearly frittered away Delone’s double-digit first half lead, Moore commandeered the ball handling duties.

 She controlled the tempo and lured in defenders with her handle. Submitting a game-high 22 points, Moore helped Delone thwart a spirited Pine Grove comeback bid.

 All her life, Moore has been a guard.

As an ahead-of-the-class third grader, as a freshman fighting for meaningful playing time as a freshman at Duke, Moore's identity has been that of an instinctive guard.

At Penn State, Moore will return to the backcourt.

 Right where she belongs.