Monday, October 5, 2015

Bigger size, Bigger Impact For Law & Tech's Moreno

When Larry Moreno arrived at Brooklyn Law & Tech High as an undersized freshman with a rare overabundance of confidence, coaches Mike Levy and Kenny Pretlow were equally elated.

Impressed with Moreno's left-handed set shot and fearless forays to the rim against the bigs, Moreno showed promise. Promise and a level of maturity and hunger beyond his years.

The only issue was a severe lack of size. 

Then just 5-foot-6 and a generously listed 140 pounds, Moreno had a cartoonish look when paired up against big, formidable guards. Injecting him into significant playing time immediately would be a bit too much, too soon. 

Brooklyn Law & Tech's coaching staff was cognizant they must take Moreno's life jacket off first, before allowing him to swim with the sharks of the varsity level.

Sure enough, the pugnacious little lefty found his way to the starting lineup.

There were games in which mighty mouse Moreno prospered--bagging 3-pointers in succession, attacking the driving lanes, soaring for rebounds as if he were a foot taller and sprawling on the floor for 50-50 balls. There were other performances in which Moreno struggled and failed to crack the score sheet, showing his size and age.

The past is over. Now up to 5-foot-9 and leaving a rollercoaster freshman ride in the rearview, Moreno has displayed convincing handle and a new knack for creating his shot off the dribble. The sophomore will assume a prominent role, pioneering the Jets' back court alongside veteran junior Mikko Johnson.

A year can make quite the difference.

"Any time you tell Larry he can't do something, he tries to prove you wrong and comes right back and does it," said Jets head coach Michael Levy.

"He can shoot, he can get to the basket. He's improved at his decision making and intermediary game. This year, he'll be running the point. Last year, because of his size, he played off the ball."

Johnson has said since last year he'll be levitating above the bigs eventually, finding his springs and dunking on the regular. The result has been Moreno putting in extra hours in the gym, getting closer and closer to throwing one down.

"There's no challenge he'll back down from," Levy said.

"He scored 21 against WHEELS in the MTG and was the talk of the tournament. That was convincing. He wants to be the future of this program. He's had aspirations to play here at Law & Tech since he was in fourth grade, he eventually turned down catholic school scholarships to play here."

Moreno, the kid they call "The Dominican Mamba" in local circles, knows the history of prosperous Dominican/NYC talents such as Felipe Lopez and Luis Flores. Lopez (St. John's) was an All-American and an all-purpose reminder of when hotly-pursued homegrown talent actually stayed local, a theme which seems to be coming back. Flores was a high-horsepower, hard-driving scoring guard who led Manhattan on an improbable 2004 NCAA tournament run.

Moreno's relationship with Kenny Pretlow, whose fiery and relentless style appealed to him, led him to Law & Tech.

"Small but lethal," is how Pretlow describes the hyper-competitive neophyte.

"He will go by the first man guarding him. He's learning when to kick it or shoot the pull up. I expect double figures in scoring and at least five assists a game out of him this season. He's also a tough defender."

Now, Moreno will have to take playmaking matters into his own hands. The sophomore got his initial taste of the leadership role this summer, when Johnson was shelved for eight weeks with a broken hand. Moreno was green-lighted to pioneer the offense at the 1-spot, scoring and creating and evolving into a better defender.

Right now, the focus is on mastering the meshing process.

"The backcourt is looking good, we just have to improve on working and playing together more as a team," Moreno said.

"As for myself individually, I have to contribute more as a facilitator. I have to make the right plays and get everyone else involved. I got a little taller and stronger, so I've been able to finish a lot better."

Law & Tech has to finish a lot better as well.

Nobody wants to revisit the 2014-15 campaign, a downtrodden transition year which culminated without a playoff berth.

"As a team, we have to make the playoffs above everything else," Moreno said. "Our goal is go as far as we can
from there. Are biggest games are non-league games and opponents ranked higher than us. We're trying to prove that we're better than most teams in the "A" division this season."