Moore On Brink Of Assists Record
Posted: February 23, 2013
HARRISONBURG — James Madison will honor six seniors at their final home game today, and, in all likelihood, it will get to honor one of them again after he breaks the school’s career assist mark.
Devon Moore has dished out 462 helpers — just one shy of the record held by former teammate Pierre Curtis, who graduated in 2010 — and has helped a previously moribund basketball program register what could be three winning seasons in his four active years.
The Dukes can clinch another plus-.500 season with a win in today’s 4 p.m. game against Georgia State, and Moore is the biggest reason for JMU’s success in the Colonial Athletic Association this year.
“For James Madison, Devon Moore’s the key to that team,” William & Mary coach Tony Shaver said this month after the fifth-year senior from Columbus, Ohio, tormented his team. “Don’t kid yourself. That kid is really good. … You guard their stuff for 30 seconds, and then they just put him in a screen-and-roll/ball screen opportunity and he makes the right play nine out of 10 times. He’s really a great player.”
Northeastern coach Bill Coen had similar praise this week as he prepared his Huskies for the 6-foot-4 heart of the Dukes.
“We’ve competed against Devon Moore for years now, and he’s just amazing,” Coen said. “His floor vision is really the best in the league. He sees plays that few guards can see.”
Opposing coaches will be glad to see Moore go. He’s been the Dukes’ starting point guard from Day 1, joining Brady in 2008 to usher in a new era at Madison. Together, the new coach and the then-dreadlocked freshman snapped a run of eight straight losing seasons at the school, guiding JMU to 21 wins.
Brady compared Moore — who was edged out by fellow Duke Julius Wells for CAA Rookie of the Year — to a “diamond” the following offseason, but that diamond proved breakable. Moore tore the ACL in his left knee during a preseason scrimmage before his sophomore year, and the Dukes dropped back to their losing ways. After rehabbing his knee (and shaving his notable hair) Moore helped the Dukes to another 21 wins in his return season.
As a junior, an academic suspension and broken hand limited Moore to an inconsistent 24 games for another bad JMU squad. But this year, and especially recently, Moore has reached his highest level. In JMU’s last six games, he’s averaging 16 points and 6.8 assists. For the season, Moore has so far matched his career high in scoring (11.4 ppg) while leading the CAA in dimes (4.9 apg). And while his 1.3 steals are impressive, they do little to demonstrate the impact Moore’s defense has had on the suddenly stingy Dukes.
“People make a big deal about what a good season he’s having,” Brady said. “He’s having the season he always has when he’s not broke. He had a broken hand last year, he had a broken knee [three years ago], and two years ago when we had our best team, he was coming off of major ACL surgery.
“When he’s been healthy, he’s been as good a point guard as there is in our league, from his very first games here.”
JMU’s senior class is a strange one. Moore and injured forward Andrey Semenov (who redshirted with back problems the same year Moore hurt his knee) both began at Madison in 2008. Alioune Diouf, the only true senior of the half-dozen, came in 2009. Rayshawn Goins transferred in from junior college in 2010, but saw his career pushed back a year when he injured his shoulder before last season. A.J. Davis and Gene Swindle, meanwhile, transferred in from Wyoming and Virginia Tech, respectively, joining the Dukes in 2011.
Semenov (when healthy), Goins and Davis have all been very productive players. Moore has been that, plus a leader whom Brady trusts to both call the team’s plays and stay in games with foul trouble.
Moore said he’ll have 28 family members and friends — but not his mother, who has been recovering from a stroke and brain tumor — in attendance for what is “going to be a special day here.”
Breaking the assists record would be significant for Moore, who is sometimes unselfish to a fault.
“That’s something me and my dad talked about since, first thing when I came here,” Moore said. “He wanted me to do something to change the way point guards [play]. Don’t worry about scoring, just try to [get everyone else involved]. To break it, I’m just excited. It was a great point guard who had it before me.”
Of course, Moore would be more excited for a win, which would keep the Dukes in contention for the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament. JMU (16-13 overall, 10-6 in the CAA) is currently one-half game behind Delaware (over which it owns a tiebreaker) and one-half game ahead of George Mason (which owns a tiebreaker against the Dukes) for that spot.
Beating Georgia State (14-15, 9-7 but not eligible for the tournament because it is leaving this summer for the Sun Belt) won’t be easy.
The Panthers stopped a four-game JMU winning streak in early January, whipping the Dukes 68-52 in Atlanta. JMU shot 31 percent from the field and was outscored by 14 in the first half. Moore rejoined the team from Ohio, where he was visiting his ill mother, but struggled in his first game back, going 1-for-6 from the field.
“This a payback game,” Moore said Thursday.
While this afternoon will be about JMU’s seniors, a Georgia State freshman could steal the spotlight. R.J. Hunter, a 6-5 guard and son of coach Ron Hunter, is a lock to win CAA Rookie of the Year and will likely become the first freshman since North Carolina-Wilmington’s Brent Blizzard in 1999-2000 to make the Colonial’s first team.
Hunter has averaged 17.3 points (third among all CAA players) and has the propensity to explode, like he did in a 38-point outing against Old Dominion this month.
“He’s had a better year than I thought he would have, to be honest with you,” Ron Hunter said. “A few weeks ago I thought he hit a wall, and he came back against George Mason and played great. He’s been in double-figures and he’s shot the ball consistently, and he’s getting better. … I’m just proud as a father and a coach that he’s had a great freshman year.”