June 6, 2017
By Jon Cooper | The Good Word
– Complacency can be the biggest enemy to prolonged success.
If Justin Moore’s summer is any indication, that won’t be a problem for Georgia Tech’s basketball team come the 2017-18 season.
Moore isn’t spending time looking back at his unforgettable freshman year or even standing pat. He’s going full-speed ahead into the future.
Here’s a typical summer day.
“Josh (Okogie) and I will work out with Coach (Darryl) LaBarrie (who, coincidentally recruited and coached Justin’s older brother, David Travers at Georgia State),” Moore began. “He’ll go with Coach LaBarrie individual then I’ll go with Coach LaBarrie individual. Then we’ll have weights, then Josh and I will go back to the gym later that night, get some shots up, then play very, very, very competitive one-on-one. We play probably 10-15 games, probably won’t leave until like two in the morning. Then I’ve got class at eight in the morning.”
It should be noted that when Moore says “class” he’s referring to one of the three classes he’s taking this summer.
But it’s amazing what you can do when you’re intent on improving.
“We’re trying to get better,” he said. “We’re trying to improve on this year. We’re trying to make it to the (NCAA) Tournament. In order to do that we have to do stuff that everybody else is not doing.”
As a freshman, the San Diego, Calif., native, started 18 of Georgia Tech’s first 19 games, averaging 6.0 points, 2.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 24.9 minutes. More importantly, he had only 39 turnovers, with nine games in which he had one-or-fewer. He’d come off the bench the rest of the way, but played his role well. For the season he averaged 4.4 points, 1.8 boards and 2.4 assists in 18.8 minutes (3.6, 1.9, 2.0, in 16.8 in ACC play).
“I learned a lot about myself, about basketball and what I need to do to be successful,” he said. “I think it was good for me starting just to see how it was to be the starting point guard of a great program in the best conference and playing at a high level and playing big minutes. Moving forward it gives me confidence.”
His confidence will only grow as his game improves, and he’s not limiting himself to the areas in which he plans to do that.
“I want to improve my jump shot, gain weight, mainly get stronger, work on ballhandling a little bit more, get tighter, get stronger jumping, be able to jump higher,” he said. “Mainly, I work on everything, from defense to watching film, ballhandling, jump shot, everything.”
One area Moore is confident is ball security, an area he’s always felt was a strength. He had 81 assists vs. 51 turnovers, a 1.6 assist-to-turnover ratio (1.8 in ACC play), and had 18 games in which he played at least 10 minutes with two or fewer turnovers.
“In high school, I would go two weeks without turning over the ball,” he said. “In practice after every turnover I would have to do a ‘suicide.’ My high school coach instilled in me that a turnover is not a good thing. Everybody knows that, but he made sure that I knew going to the next level that valuing the ball is key for a team to win.”
Justin feels he’s on the right track as far as his shooting as well. While he had his struggles (.430, .300 from three, .529 from the line; .446, .400, .526 in conference play), he finished strong making five of his last nine shots in Tech’s final three NIT games, and hitting seven of his last eight from the foul line. That included going 3-for-6 from the floor and 2-for-2 from the line against Cal State Bakersfield in the NIT semifinal at Madison Square Garden, a game he calls a dream come true.
“I think it all had to do with my mindset and my confidence,” he said. “I’ve always been able to shoot, I’ve always been able to make free throws. At first, coming here and getting adjusted to the game kind of threw me off, but from the last part of the year and through the summer and next year everybody will see a lot of improvement in my jump shot and my free throw shooting. I’ll be taking more shots, obviously open shots, great shot selection. I’ll just keep working and getting better at it.”
He’s already gotten better at adjusting to being on his own, a difficult process for most freshmen, especially one leaving home on the opposite coast.
“Being away from my mom was probably the hardest thing because my mom’s my everything,” Justin said. “She basically did everything for me and everything I needed, she was there for me. But it was good for me to come out here and grow and mature. On the court, it was high school to college, so I got thrown in the fire, and that’s where I am now.”
He’s a lot further along in his development from where he was last summer. For that, he credits coach Josh Pastner’s positivity, Pastner’s staff and the leadership of last year’s seniors.
“Coach Pastner and the assistant coaches and the Josh Heaths and Corey Heywards, Quinton Stephens, Rand Rowland, they did a great job of leading us on and off the court and teaching us the basics of how to win,” Moore said. “Coach Pastner is positive. At first I had trouble with it because I was confused. I’m like, ‘I’m not doing so great and you’re telling me to do this and being positive. I’m so used to being yelled at.’ I think that’s great, because it motivates us to do better. He’s on us, but it’s to motivate us and it shows.”
Heath was especially instrumental in his development.
“He was my close friend out of the older guys,” Moore said. “When I first got here during practices, when I missed a shot or turned over the ball, I used to always get frustrated, had bad body language. Throughout the course of the year he always stayed on me, being like a big brother, telling me, ‘That’s not okay,’ and things to fix it, things to think about. Towards the end of the year, everything was great. I didn’t have bad body language, I was very positive, and I thank him for that.”
Hearing the positive voices have helped Justin turn down the heat from his toughest critic — himself.
“There’s no one in this world that has been harder on me than me,” he said, with a laugh. “Coach can’t really say anything to me that’s going to make me mad.”
Nothing makes Moore happier than thinking about early August, when he plans on going back to San Diego.
“I’ve got two weeks off, so that will be good to go home and see my family,” he said.
That means changing a lot of diapers, a skill he’s as adept at as changing hands on the dribble.
“I have an older brother, he has three kids, and my little brother has a kid. So I’m surrounded by babies,” he said, with a laugh. “I’m an uncle like seven times, so being around that, family means everything to me. Being far away from home and not being able to see them every day or allowing them to watch me play is difficult but I think in the end it will all pay off.”