BENNETT'S MINUTES: Hallowed ground - Cloverdale's Moore set to pass 2,000-point career scoring mark tonight
CLOVERDALE – When Cloverdale’s Jalen Moore scores his 21st point tonight at Northview, which should come sometime early in the third period based upon the normal pattern, he will become the 52nd player in Indiana boys’ high school basketball history to have scored 2,000 points in his career.
The 5-10 senior Clover point guard leads the state in scoring at 37.9 points per game, after being the state’s fourth-leading scorer last year. He is currently tied for 62nd place on the all-time state scoring list.
Once Moore joins the 2,000-point club, Cloverdale will become just the seventh school in state history to have a pair of players reach that plateau – joining Lebanon (Rick and Richie Mount), Carmel (Billy and Dave Shepherd), Michigan City Rogers (Delray Brooks and Dan Palombizio), Morristown (Brady Adkins and Dylan Langkabel), Greenfield-Central (Mike Edwards and John Hamilton) and Warsaw (Charlie McKenzie and Kevin Ault).
Moore won’t know tonight when he passes the 2,000-point mark; he has too many other concerns on the court.
“I keep track in my mind for the first few baskets,” he said, “but after that I’m too worried about defense and everything else that is going on.”
The enormity of the numbers is not lost on Moore, who admits not foreseeing such statistical success as a youngster growing up in Indianapolis.
Moore is thankful for the advice from his father, William – a standout player on Southport’s 1990 state finalist team who scored 23 points in the semifinals against Damon Bailey and eventual champion Bedford North Lawrence.
“The numbers I’m putting up really mean a lot,” he said. “I didn’t think I could put up these kinds of numbers, but my dad always knew that I would be really good if I pushed myself. I’m happy for myself.”
He credits his success to hard work.
“I think a lot about it, especially being the size I am,” Moore said. “People say I don’t play against anybody, but I don’t listen to that. I’ve done it against 4A players and lots of good players.
“I’ve worked really hard for it, and my coaches have pushed me really hard,” he added. “Coach [Greg] Thomas has pushed me in the weight room every day, and coach [Patrick] Rady gives me workouts to do all the time.”
Moore’s family made the move from Indianapolis to Cloverdale when Jalen was in junior high school after his family got a good deal on land in Putnam County to build a house.
Little did they realize that Jalen, as well as older brother Marquise, would eventually team with another guy who could rack up a lot of points.
Of all the amazing things about Moore’s accomplishments, at the top of the list would be the fact that he played the past three seasons on the same team as Cooper Neese – the state’s eighth-leading career scorer after being bumped down a spot this season by New Albany’s Romeo Langford.
Path to 2,000
The normal and logical formula for accumulating so many points not only includes talent, but often the physical and mental maturity to play a lot as a freshman and maximize scoring opportunities.
That was not the case for Moore, who was literally the fifth wheel on a 22-6 sectional championship team three years ago that included Neese, Marquise, K.J. Coleman, future Anderson Raven player Brantson Scott and a sixth man named Duke Duff, who would wind up having a solid career at North Putnam.
“I was an assistant coach that year,” recalls Rady, whose Hall of Fame father Pat would be coaching his final team. “We had a lot of scoring on a really good team. Jalen was one that always wanted to come in and get up extra shots. He maybe got two or three shots a game [91 total in 28 games], but he would shoot 30 minutes a day before and after practice just trying to get better.”
Moore scored 133 points that freshman season, and the Clovers lost to Crispus Attucks in the regional semifinals. (By comparison, he totaled 137 points in a three-game stretch in December that concluded with a 53-point effort against Greencastle.)
For Moore’s sophomore year, only Neese returned from the core of the previous season. The Clovers still finished 19-8, won the sectional again and Moore’s numbers improved to 18.8 points per game. Neese scored 29.5 points a game that year as a junior.
The Clovers made their second straight trip to the Greenfield-Central regional, and lost again – this time to Northeastern – in the semifinals.
As a junior, with basically the same team returning, Moore and Neese formed a potent 1-2 duo. Moore averaged 27.5 and Neese added 27.2. Another trip to Greenfield-Central followed another sectional title, preceding yet another regional semifinal loss to Northeastern.
Neese and Seth Pfaff graduated, leaving Moore as the unquestioned alpha dog for his senior year.
Basketball fans can be excused if they were skeptical of Moore’s chances to score so many points this year. Opposing defenses wouldn’t have to split their attention between the two legendary scorers, and could focus most of their attention on Moore.
His numbers would surely go down, and he would have to rely much more on his teammates to provide enough points for the Clovers to succeed.
Things haven’t worked out that way, and Moore has thrived with the ball in his hands such a vast majority of the time.
This year, Moore has racked up five 40-point plus games and eight more in the 30s besides his school-record tying 53-pointer. His only game of less than 30 came when he had 25 against Linton-Stockton in the Wabash Valley Classic.
Last year, Moore shot 46 percent from the field by hitting 242 of 522 shots. Included in those totals were 66 3-pointers in 187 attempts (35 percent).
This year, Moore has actually increased his overall field goal percentage to 48 percent (183 of 382), although his 3-point numbers have fallen off to 30 percent (35 of 117). His assist-to-turnover ratio is a very acceptable 1.5:1 with 59 assists and 41 turnovers.
Best of all for the Clovers, they have won 11 of their last 13 games after losing their first two contests of the year and stand at 11-4 going into tonight’s fifth-place Western Indiana Conference playoff game.
Moore acknowledges seeing box-and-ones, diamond-and-ones and many other special strategies.
“I’ve seen a lot of double teams,” said Moore after practice on Wednesday, sitting in the gym bleachers with four stitches under his right eye from an injury suffered in Saturday’s win over Clay City. “I have been face-guarded, had my jersey pulled out to keep me from catching the ball, grabbing my arms and all kinds of things.
“It doesn’t affect me,” he said. “I just play my game and play to my ability.”
Moore’s maturity is shown in his ability to not get frustrated at such illegal tactics.
“I try not to show my emotions on the court and frown up or anything,” he said. “College coaches especially don’t like that. Sometimes in my head I’m mad, but it makes me go harder and want to beat them even more.”
Rady points to an overlooked basketball skill that Moore has which allows him to succeed.
“Teams have tried a lot of different things, but what makes him so difficult is that he reads screens and double teams really well,” Rady said. “He can shift and change speeds really well, and that lets him get to the free throw line so much [199 attempts in 15 games this year]. That’s a great quality to be able to not just settle for jump shots.
“If you’re in bad position, he knows how to draw contact,” Rady added. “He constantly works hard on being even better at the free throw line. He wants to shoot over 90 percent.”
Moore is a little short of that mark so far, at 84 percent.
“That’s still really good,” Rady said.
Rady admits hearing comments from people in opposing communities about how the team would struggle this year without Neese, and thinks the program has used that misguided negativity to its advantage.
“Obviously we lost a lot of production and we lost a great player,” Rady said. “But we all just kind of decided we would embrace the challenge and use that to our advantage.
“What Jalen did was work hard and set a good example for others,” he added. “That has rubbed off on other guys, and they are now kind of buying in. Hopefully we hear the same comments for next year after Jalen leaves and our guys do the same thing to keep our winning tradition going.”
Room to improve
Moore particularly enjoys having the ball in his hands at the end of quarters, and he has hit an inordinate amount of “buzzer beaters” to give his team momentum moving forward.
Moore doesn’t take long to admit he needs to improve his 3-point shooting percentage, which currently stands at 30 – under the universally-acceptable average of 33 percent.
“My dad always tells me to mix my game up more and get to the basket more,” he said. “But I need to work on my threes. I know my percentage is down, but I’m also shooting deeper this year. I also need to finish better around the rim.
“Other than that, I think I’m playing pretty well.”
“When he shoots a step-back three, he gets more into his rhythm,” he said. “He’s very good when he gets that ‘bounce’ and gets his momentum into it. He’s just worked a variety of workouts to avoid being one-dimensional, and that’s one big reason he’s so difficult to stop.”
Rady has enjoyed watching Moore’s game evolve over his career.
“He was basically just a catch-and-shoot guy as a freshman,” Rady recalls. “He moved to the point for his sophomore year, and Cooper had the ball the other half of the time. I remember Jalen coming to me when we were playing in a summer game and saying that he and Cooper were going to be like the ‘Splash Brothers’ [Steph Curry and Klay Thompson of the NBA’s Golden State Warriorsz].
“I named them the ‘Lieber Park Splash Brothers’, and they kind of fed off each other. They caused nightmares for defenses. In our system, we want to create turnovers and get quick points and he’s been the catalyst for that the past three years.”
In addition to Moore’s contributions to the scoreboard total, Rady finds many other positive contributions.
“He handles the ball so well that we don’t get pressed,” he said. “We have had single-digit turnovers in most games this year, and he’s a big part of that in taking care of the ball so well. Those are other facets he brings.”
Like wild game stalking its prey, Moore normally has more points in the second half than the first after sizing up each game.
“I like to get others more involved early in games,” he said. “I read the defense and see the gaps that I can hit in the second half, whether that’s pushing the ball or splitting the defense. I think that has improved in my game a lot this year.”
Season going great
Moore likes how his team’s season has gone, despite its 0-2 start.
“We played a really tough team the first game in Terre Haute South,” he said. “Then we lost to another tough team in Edgewood, which won the Wabash Valley Classic. I knew in my head that we were fine, and it was just two games. We had to get flow and get playing again, and we’ve had a great run since then.”
The Clovers average 66.3 points per game, ranking them 50th in the state.
Moore’s total is slightly more than half that amount, but as the season has progressed the Clovers have been getting more and more production from teammates Nick Winders, Jake Kelley, Jake Wilkes, Nolan Kelley and Parker Watts.
“Everybody is stepping up and doing their job and playing their roles,” he said. “I try to get everybody involved and not just take the show by myself. If I see somebody’s hot, I’m going to keep throwing them the ball. Just like last year when Cooper was hot. If somebody’s hot, just keep giving them the ball.”
The individual highlight was on Dec. 16, when Moore’s 53-point explosion fueled an 80-66 win over Greencastle.
He admits some pre-game “bulletin board material” helped inspire that performance.
“We heard some things from Greencastle talking about us, and how we wouldn’t win five games before Christmas break,” he said. “That pushed all of us to our limits, and I went out there and took over. I had to get that W for us. Everybody contributed, especially Jake Wilkes, and it was a game that I really wanted to win.”
Sectional not enough
Cloverdale’s current three-year sectional streak ties the similar school-best stretch of titles from 1981-83, and Moore would like to break new ground in that category.
“It would mean a lot, because that would be a record that nobody could break,” he said. “Nobody has ever won four sectionals in a row. But I want more than that. I’m tired of getting put out the first game of regionals.”
Rady sees Moore’s determination and hard work as he tries to make this his longest high school season yet.
“Our goal as a program is that we want to win the state,” he said. “We wanted to win the conference this year, and we fell short. We wanted to do better in the Wabash Valley Classic than we did.
“We know the sectional will be tough with many good players and teams, and nothing’s a guarantee. But we definitely have sights and aspirations to go farther than that we have. He’s been a great leader to help us get to that point. When practice is going a little slow, we ask if this is the kind of performance you can win the state with. He’s one of the first one who recognizes that and tries to correct it.”
Off to college
Interest from colleges had been lukewarm at best until the big numbers started piling up this year.
Moore opted to work on his own skills rather than compete on the summer travel circuit that many college recruiters use to best judge players against the top talent.
“I think that has had a lot to do with it, but Jalen has used his time well and the results are paying off,” Rady said. “He just has to be patient, and good things are going to come to him. It’s starting to pick up now, and we thought it would.”
St. Francis, a NAIA school in Fort Wayne, has had the longest interest. Moore picked up an offer from Olney Central College in Illinois following his 42-point game against North Putnam earlier this month. Eastern Kentucky and other mid-major Division I schools are now also picking up their interest.
Moore does not have a specific kind of school in mind.
“I want to go somewhere where I am going to be able to play that will push me to prepare for the rest of my life,” he said. “I don’t care about the size, or the name of the school.”
Moore hopes to have some kind of sports-related career when his playing days are over, possibly in broadcasting. The prospect of playing against much bigger guards at the college level could be a concern for some, but Moore welcomes that opportunity.
“I like that better,” he said. “Anybody that’s taller than me can’t guard me. My dad always taught me that anyone who is 6-1 or taller shouldn’t be able to stay in front of you.”
Moore currently stands 517 points behind Neese, with eight regular-season games and a minimum of one sectional game left to play.
A lengthy tournament run could potentially put Moore in a position to pass his friend and former teammate, but he isn’t worried about that fact.
Moore is proud of the fact that he has never lost a sectional game, but that pride quickly diminishes when he thinks about his 0-3 record at the regional level.
“I don’t have any goals to catch or pass Cooper,” he said. “But I would like to get up there in the top 10 for sure to get my name out there more. He scored a lot of points, and that’s going to be hard to beat. “I’m much more focused on winning a regional and taking it one at a time,” he said.
Until then, Moore continues to keep working to improve.
Not surprisingly, one of his favorite players to watch on video is Isaiah Thomas of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers – a shorter, left-handed guard who was told he was too small at every stage of his career.
“I want to play in the NBA if I can, or overseas,” Moore said. “My parents have always taught me to never give up on my dream, no matter how big or small you are. I want to be one of the best that has ever been.”