Omari Moore had no offers to play college basketball anywhere when he graduated high school. Now, after becoming one of the top scorers in San Jose State history, Moore looks to start his NBA career next month.
“I’m in a good position to reach my goals and I’m going after it,” he told The Sporting Tribune.
Moore recently participated in the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago and later confirmed that he would be keeping his name in this year’s draft. The 22-year-old guard is considered a potential second round pick with his rim pressure, versatility on and off the ball, and strong developmental track record.
The Sporting Tribune spoke with Moore this week ahead of the draft on June 22.
The following interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
WILKO MARTÍNEZ-CACHERO: What are your first memories of basketball?
OMARI MOORE: Man, you’re taking me way back with that one. I come from a basketball family, so it’s always been there whether it’s watching the Lakers on TV as a little kid when they were winning championships, going to one of my dad’s adult games when he was just playing for fun at that point in his life or even like, going to YMCA games as a little kid. I just feel like basketball has always been in front of me. I can’t even remember a time without basketball.
WM: You went to Pasadena High in your hometown and played with a few D-1 guys there. You played against a few D-1 guys, as well. You only averaged seven points per game. What type of player were you in high school?
OM: From high school to now, it’s like I’m a completely different person. I think in high school, I was kind of a shell of myself. I was at a school that had a couple other Division-I players and I had just taken a backseat role and kind of just did whatever the coach needed me to do, whether that was just playing a bunch of defense, [scoring] on some days, whatever it was. It was definitely more of just a role, trying to do everything right, making sure I’m just helping the team in whichever way I can.
WM: You didn’t have any college offers at any level coming out of high school?
OM: Finishing my senior season, I didn’t have any scholarship offers. I had broken my hand my last game, so I was kind of in a tough spot. But I ended up going to recovery for a month and some change, I came back, and I played AAU as an unsigned senior. I had a much larger role on my AAU team because I was always capable, but my role for high school was a little bit different.
In AAU, I was playing well and I was able to start getting some traction from different teams but San Jose was the most-bought-in to me at the time. All the coaches were coming to the games, from the head coach all the way down. They literally did not miss a game that whole summer, so for me it was just really going somewhere where I felt I wanted and I was going to get an opportunity.
WM: You were more of a complementary player your first two seasons at San Jose St. before really breaking out these past two years. There’s a lot of value in the NBA now in having guys that have played both worlds — being the main guy and also more of a role player. How is that the case with you?
OM: I’ve played in every single role I feel like there is in basketball. I’ve been out there as a freshman in college where I was literally just playing defense. My goal was literally to try to shut down the other team’s best player, run around, and play defense. In my second year, I was a little bit more featured but I was still kind of a role player on the team. I had to make the right plays, run the team a little bit. And then into my third and fourth year, my role grew a bunch. I definitely do think it’s valuable that I can succeed in a lot of different roles. I have experience in a lot of different roles, and I’m okay with not being the featured guy on a team so I definitely think that that’s an advantage that I have transitioning into the next level.
WM: You took more threes (198) this season than in your first three college seasons combined (143). Where did that come from?
OM: It’s a lot of different things that go into that. First is just the work. I put in a lot, a lot of work these last couple of years on improving my jump shot because that’s the way that the game has transitioned. That’s just what it is now. With putting in all those hours comes a lot of confidence. I think when the confidence and the work meet up, we were able to see some of the results shooting it really well, a high percentage last year and then more volume this year. My coaching staff also instilled a lot of confidence in me. They wanted me to take those shots because when I’m making shots from behind the arc, it becomes a lot harder to guard me because now I’m able to get to the basket a lot more, create for others and for myself.
WM: What have you been working on specifically during these last few months?
OM: The biggest thing is continuing to improve my jump shot. That jump from the college three-point line to the NBA three-point line takes a little bit of adjusting, so a lot of reps there just [having] consistency shooting. [Also] continuing to get stronger because everybody at each level gets a lot bigger and stronger, and fine tuning all my other skills that I feel I do pretty well.
WM: You were having to create for yourself at all three levels almost all the time in college, but you’re going to be getting set up a lot more looking ahead.
OM: I think it’ll be a lot more catch-and-shoot. This past year, I shot a whole bunch of threes off the dribble. I think that I showed that I was capable, but as I’m transitioning to the next level, I may not be as ball-dominant, so I need to be able to knock down the catch-and-shoot.
WM: After your season ended, when did you sit down and think about your next steps?
OM: I went home, talked to my family a bunch, and took some time off the court. We did meetings with different agents and whatnot. During that time period, we decided that LIFT was the best opportunity for me and we thought it would be a good opportunity — which it has been. They’ve put me in really good situations. A week or two later, after I had to move all my stuff out of my apartment at college, I came out to Florida to get ready for pre-draft. You know, everybody has an opinion on something. People said, ‘You should do your fifth year at school’ or whatever it is. We just decided that I’m in a good position to reach my goals and I’m going after it.
WM: You’ve gone through the pre-draft process before. How do you balance everything while keeping basketball the priority?
OM: Outside of just how taxing it is physically with all the work, I don’t think everybody understands it’s mentally challenging as well. These next couple of weeks and these past couple of weeks, it’s been a lot of different workouts, traveling to different places, getting ready for the draft on different interviews with teams. I think for me, making sure I’m not becoming exhausted mentally and finding out where I’m going to be spending some time. It’s exciting. It should be a lot of fun.
WM: What type of feedback have you been getting from teams?
OM: A lot of people [told] me to continue to play to my strengths. I’ve heard that I bring a lot of different things to the game and I’m pretty versatile in that aspect. So, you know, just keep continuing to be myself, continuing to improve on my shot, improving on my body. We kind of all feel like this is only like the tip of the iceberg. I have a lot more growing to do as a player.
WM: What would you be happy with on draft night?
OM: I just want not only the opportunity to play for an organization, but I want to play for an organization that sees the value in me and will give me the opportunity to grow as a player on and off the court. It’s not so much for me about how high you get drafted, but is it a good fit?