It’s 6-foot-3 senior Jason Moore. Just watch him for a few plays and one realizes his importance. He handles the ball the majority of the time. He defends the opposition’s best player.
And, of course he can score, rebound and assist his teammates. Simply put, he’s a leader.
“It’s been like that since I was a child,” Moore said. “I’ve always been the leader. I love helping my teammates. It’s all about winning. It’s the No. 1 goal.”
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“He’s a great young man,” said Oberlin coach Kurt Russell, who is taking the Phoenix to its first Sweet 16 appearance since 2001. “He has a lot of ability and he’s not selfish. It’s all about the team.”
Russell, in his seventh year at Oberlin, may not know what to do next year when Moore is no longer around. Moore’s been a part of the varsity since midway through his freshman season.
Tonight, Moore and his teammates face a huge challenge in Leavittsburg LaBrae at Canton’s Memorial Field House at 8 p.m. The Vikings are 21-3 and certainly should be favored.
Led by 6-7 junior Peyton Aldridge, LaBrae coasted to its third straight unscathed All-American Conference championship. At the Warren district, the Vikings dominated their first two opponents before sneaking out with a double overtime win over Youngstown Ursuline.
Aldridge averages over 20 points and nearly 12 rebounds, he hits 59 percent from the floor and isn’t afraid to play out on the perimeter. From the foul line, he makes 82 percent of his free throws.
Guess who’s assigned to guard the Division I prospect?
“Jason always draws the other team’s best player,” Russell said. “We know LaBrae is a big, physical team, but I think we’re playing our best basketball of the season and Jason has had a lot to do with that. He’s really focused.”
“All weekend and all week we’ve been preparing,” Moore said. “No one expects us to do anything, but I think we’re ready to play.”
Moore credits Russell with his development as the floor leader.
“I’ve been playing for him since I was 14 years old,” Moore said. “The big thing was gaining his trust.”
Moore averages 16.8 points and eight rebounds, but Russell admits those numbers only tell part of Moore’s worth.
“He could easily be scoring 20 points a game,” Russell said. “But he understands what we want from him. He controls everything out there and with Noland (Isom), Marcus (Bailey) and Charles (Lewis), we’re playing very well right now. Demonte (Taborn) has come along real well as a starter the past few games. I think we’re ready.”
Moore’s statement about no one thinking Oberlin had much of a chance has some merit. The Phoenix’s tallest player — 6-4 senior DaShaun Horton — left the team at the end of the regular season due to a team rules violation, but the Phoenix never lost faith in themselves.
“I know they’re very athletic, but not very deep,” LaBrae coach Chad Kiser said. “They’re really quick and play a lot like we do. They depend on their defense. It’s pretty obvious, No. 10 (Moore) is their best player.”
“We have the whole school behind us,” Moore said. “The community, too. Everyone is behind us. I think we’re ready to surprise some people.”
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.