March 17, 2012

Moore is a nugget

Kevin McCarthy

Northern California has a long and rich history regarding striking gold, what with John Marshall, Sutter's Mill and all that. Yet Mckenzie Moore had to move two time zones and a number of states over in order to become a Miner but he's liking his newfound status.

photo of McKenzie Moore

Moore sat out his final year at College Park High in Pleasant Hill, then made the decision to attend City College of San Francisco. After the first semester there and playing on the Rams basketball team, Tim Floyd entered the picture. Now the head coach at University Texas El Paso (UTEP), Floyd needed a point. He got to the point, quickly extending an offer for Moore to join the Miners basketball program.

It was off to the Lone Star State.

So why UTEP?

"Because Tim Floyd is a great coach," the 6-foot-6, 195 pound Moore explained. "He's totally straight up, he stays on you, has experience with bigger guards and gets people to the next level."

Moore related that Floyd calls him "my point guard" and associates him with former USC backcourter Daniel Hackett, another 6-foot-6 guard who Floyd coached when he headed the Trojan program.

Now after a quarter at UTEP, Moore has adjusted quickly.

"I'm working hard. I'm not trying to be ordinary," he said. Moore posted an initial 3.2 grade point average and is redshirting athletically. He'll return to the court in December of the coming season.

What does he see himself bringing to the Miners?

"I'm someone who can see the floor, who makes the people around me better, plays unselfishly and is interested in just winning."

But basketball is not just time well spent for Moore, it's actually a place of respite -- "it's something to keep me going, it takes my mind off anything," calling the sport "very important to me."

He doesn't know yet what the name of the conference he'll be playing in will be titled as UTEP will soon have membership in a yet-to-be disclosed cluster, this a result of the merger between the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA. There will likely be west and east divisions with UNLV, Nevada, Fresno State, New Mexico, Wyoming, Colorado State,and Air Force surrounding the Miners plus Southern Mississippi, Tulsa, Marshall, Rice, UAB, Tulane, East Carolina and other possibilities constituting the other segment.

Moore is looking to major in business communications.

In closing, he strongly advised that his heart remains in the Golden State -- "I'm a Cali boy." So don't expect him on return visits to be modeling a cowboy hat or snakeskin boots. But he might show a little Texas two-step on the basketball floor -- no, make that one and a half steps. He doesn't mind traveling in order to seize his dream, just not on the court.

His longtime mentor, Phil Handy [now with the Los Angeles Lakers] spoke about his protégé. "I am extremely proud of Mckenzie. He has come a long way in a short amount of time and has really changed his life in so many ways. I cannot say enough how happy I am for him to be in the situation he is in...he deserves it. Mckenzie really wanted to attend St. Mary's College in order to be close to home but sometimes things in life just don't work out the way we would like. He is in a great place at UTEP, with a very good coach who knows how to coach players with his skill set. Mack still has a lot of learning to do on and off the court but he has all the tools to be a very good player at UTEP and play beyond college. I've taken a lot of young players under my wing and he has all that is required to be really good. He has a very good heart and his will to overcome things in his life will make for a good story one day. UTEP has picked up a talented player and, with his size, Mack possesses skills that can and will cause a lot of problems for opponents if he continues to work. Over the last few years, he really became like a son to me. We spent countless hours in the gym working on his game and I hope the best for him as he starts this new chapter of life. I am excited to see where this journey takes him."