COLUMBIA — Steve Moore’s teammates have differing opinions about the quirky goggles he wears on the court.
Laurence Bowers compares them to the goofy specs worn by Barnacle Boy on the children’s TV show “Spongebob Squarepants.”
BIG 12 TOURNAMENT
Fifth seed Missouri (22-9, 10-6)
versus 12th seed Nebraska (14-17, 2-14)
WHEN: 2 p.m., Wednesday
WHERE: Sprint Center, Kansas City
Zaire Taylor, meanwhile, takes a less critical stance. The goggles remind him of former NBA player Horace Grant, whose goggles contributed to the tough-nosed reputation he gained in a 17-year career.
“I think they fit him,” Taylor said, chuckling several times first. “A player like him needs some goggles. You think of Horace Grant, a big guy that gets physical, likes to rebound, do the dirty work that you need to get championships.
“A lot of teams have Jordan, Pippen and all that, but you need that guy that needs some goggles on, that gets a little dirty.”
Grant’s workmanlike mentality contributed to four NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls and L.A. Lakers. Given the competition, it will be difficult for Moore to help the Missouri men’s basketball team to a title of its own this week at the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City. But at least he’ll look the part of tough guy.
The goggles, which are made by Liberty Sport and cost around $100 online, have clear lenses, a gray frame and small black cushioning strips to protect the temples. Moore said team trainer Pat Beckmann helped him find the pair at a Columbia optometry store. Moore picked out the frame and had the lenses filled with his prescription.
Since his freshman year in high school, Moore has worn contacts on the court, but he finally became fed up with them about three weeks ago.
“They would get knocked out of my eye,” he said. ‘They would fall on the floor and I’d have to find them. Say we’d be scrimmaging or something, I’d have to run off and wash them off and put them back in my eye … And I just didn’t really want to do that anymore.”
Sometimes the contacts became torn, forcing Moore to get new ones. He constantly had to stop practice to search for loose contacts on the floor.
“That happened all the time,” Taylor said. “I guess it’s more convenient for everybody that he’s got goggles now.”
Moore said he had an eye infection about a month ago that prompted him to approach Beckmann.
“I talked to him about getting goggles, and he sort of blew me off. He didn’t believe me that I would wear them or whatever,” Moore said. “Then I got the eye infection and he re-recommended it, and we went through with it.”
The goggles give Moore a break from contacts, which he wears 24/7. He said he’s “practically blind” without them.
The goggles are convenient and were easy to adjust to, Moore said. The only catch is they get foggy when he starts sweating.
“Whenever I’m on the bench and he’s there, he’s cleaning them out with his towel,” Bowers said.
When he first wore the goggles Feb. 17 against Texas, Moore played just four minutes. One week later, after a likely season-ending knee injury to fellow forward Justin Safford, Moore’s role transformed from scarcely-used reserve to one of Missouri’s main big men.
“He’s been thrown into the fire, so to speak,” coach Mike Anderson said. “He had been getting some minutes here and there during the year, but now he’s crucial.”
Fifteen minutes before his teammates came out to the floor for practice Monday, Moore – goggles strapped on – was working on post moves and mid-range jump shots with Anderson.
The extra attention signifies Anderson’s need for more minutes and offensive production out of Moore, whose contributions have been solely on defense, most notably in the form of blocked shots. Anderson needs Moore to lessen the load of starting forwards Bowers and Keith Ramsey.
“Hopefully he’ll be a guy who can come out and not only give us a defensive mindset, but maybe some offensive stickbacks, some offensive rebounds,” Anderson said. “I’ve seen him change even here in the last month. He’s really progressed, and with more playing time, that may be the answer for us to help this team.”
The goggles were the answer for Moore, whether they resemble a silly TV character or NBA champion.