COLUMBIA — The first recruit of the Missouri men's basketball team's heralded 2008-2009 class has changed a lot since he committed to the Tigers in June 2007.
Steve Moore found out quickly just how much hard work it takes to play coach Mike Anderson’s brand of basketball. The Kansas City native was listed at 235 pounds as a senior at Truman High during the 2007-2008 season. By the time he got to Missouri early last summer, hard work in the weight room had helped him bulk up to 277 pounds, but his roommate, freshman Marcus Denmon, said Moore was the most out-of-shape player on the team.
Missouri Southern at Missouri
WHEN: 7 p.m.
WHERE: Mizzou Arena
RADIO: KFRU/1400 AM
“We played a little slower,” said Billy Guinnee, Moore’s former coach at Truman High. “We ran a high-low offense because we were big. We weren’t particularly quick.”
Although Guinnee was always impressed with how Moore ran the floor and said that he was quick enough to occasionally match up with guards on defense, the Truman coach said his star would need to adapt to fit the Tigers’ game plan. Thanks to extra work in conditioning and some changes to his diet, Moore has reduced his weight to 258, six pounds less than the 264 he is listed at on the roster. The transformation hasn’t gone unnoticed.
"When I saw him at the end of the summer, I saw him in the hallway and I said, ‘Who is that big guy?’” Guinnee said.
The Tigers’ final exhibition game Tuesday night against Missouri Southern will showcase a fit, athletic team with an impressive frontcourt featuring DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons.
"At times I think it’s tiring,” Moore said. “But it’s going to be to our benefit. It’s going to win a lot of games for us.”
In high school, Moore was one of the tallest players not just on his team, but in the entire state of Missouri. Now, the 6-foot-9 freshman goes up against Lyons, also 6-9, and Carroll, 6-8, who were both preseason All-Big 12 Conference Honorable Mention selections.
“They’re going to make me better and they’re good teammates,” Moore said. “They’re good team leaders. I’m going to do the best I can do, and when I’m tired, they’re pushing me.”
Moore’s presence in the weight room impresses Carroll and Lyons. He’s already lifting with the two senior forwards, who are the strongest players on the team.
“Many people don’t really know, but he’s really strong,” Carroll said. “By the time he leaves here, he should be one of the strongest dudes to ever come through MU.”
Moore gets along well with Lyons and Carroll, but his closest friend on the team is Denmon, his AAU teammate for two years before they started living together at Missouri. The chemistry between the two is obvious when they step on the basketball court.
“You can tell because they’re able to talk to each other way more than other people,” Carroll said. “Marcus’ll say something to (Moore) and he won’t get mad, and he can say something to Marcus and he’ll understand.”
Moore’s a business major who is interested in a career in law enforcement, and he’s certainly an imposing presence on the basketball court. Guinnee said Moore can seem like a tough guy off the court as well, but he’s also got a side that led Lyons to call him "the big teddy bear on the team."
“If you knew him, he’s not an intimidating guy,” Denmon said. “He’s one of the biggest, nicest kids you’ll ever meet.”
Denmon said Moore can always be depended on to give his best effort and be strong on the defensive end. Even Carroll and Lyons have found their freshman counterpart to be a formidable defender.
“He’s a great shot blocker,” Guinnee said. “He alters a lot of shots. He knows how to time his jumps so he doesn’t get silly fouls.”
Moore showed Tigers fans he could be an immediate contributor on defense in the Black-and-Gold game with two blocks in 19 minutes. In Missouri’s first exhibition game against Lincoln (Mo.), he pulled down three rebounds despite playing just five minutes.
“I think that’s what’ll get him playing time, doing the small stuff,” Guinnee said.
Even with all the progress he has made at Missouri, Moore’s got some more developing to do before he can be a weapon on offense. Guinnee said he has a good jump shot and is confident he will improve rapidly thanks to his work ethic, and that Anderson and his staff have the time and personnel to give Moore a lot more attention than he got in high school. So far, the coach is pleased with his progress.
“The thing I like about Steve is he doesn’t turn the ball over and he makes good passes with the basketball,” Anderson said. “I think his offense, that’s something that’s going to come along in time.”