Nine years later Armani Moore may be traveling the same road.
Signed by Buzz Peterson, Bradshaw proved to be a guy who lacked the ball-handling skills to play the point and lacked the shooting skills to play off guard. Recognizing this, Bruce Pearl boldly molded him into an undersized power forward, where Bradshaw blossomed into a star.
His scoring averages were nothing special – 7.1 points per game as a junior, 5.5 as a senior – but his energy, toughness and determination elevated the play of those around him. Bradshaw started all 65 games as a junior and senior, recording 303 rebounds, 281 assists and 123 steals during that stretch. He led the Vols to records of 22-8 and 24-11 with an SEC East title and two NCAA bids, one producing a run to the Sweet 16. For his efforts he was voted to Tennessee’s 20-man All-Century Team in 2009.
Whether Armani Moore reaches a similar destination remains to be seen but he’s certainly heading down a similar path. Like Bradshaw, he was signed as a point-guard prospect before moving to the wing. Like Bradshaw, he floundered for two seasons under the coach who signed him (Cuonzo Martin). Like Bradshaw, he opens his junior season with a new coach (Donnie Tyndall).
The similarities don’t end there, however.
Bradshaw started 13 games his first two years, Moore 16. Bradshaw averaged 3.4 points per game as a freshman and 3.0 as a sophomore, Moore averaged 2.4 as a freshman and 3.1 as a sophomore. Bradshaw eagerly made the move from guard to power forward. Moore was just as eager.
Bottom line: Like Bradshaw, Moore proved to be a poor fit for the coach who signed him but a great fit for the coach who inherited him.
“He is,” Tyndall told InsideTennessee. “I’ve said repeatedly that he’s a guy that’s bought in with both feet. He’s an attacking guy by nature at both ends of the floor. He’s got the strength and physicality that we like. He should (make impact). Right now he’s doing well.”
He’s doing so well, in fact, that Moore is a cornerstone of the 2014-15 team. After being a 13-minutes-per-game reserve last winter, he’s understandably thrilled about being a 30-minutes-per-game starter this winter.
“It’s come pretty quick, I will say that,” he said, flashing a soft smile. “It’s about trying to stay humble. I know I’ve got a lot of things to work on as far as my offensive game, as well as my defensive game. I feel like I have a great coaching staff to help me, as well as the other upperclassmen like Galen (Campbell) and Josh (Richardson). It’s been a fun process.”
Another fun process is developing into a Bradshaw-type team leader. Though quiet by nature, Moore seems eager to lead a Vol squad that features eight first-year players.
“I feel like I have to be a leader each and every day,” he said, “whether it’s yelling or just sitting ‘em down after practice and telling ‘em what they’ve got to do to help us win games.”
Moore’s greatest attributes—strength, tenacity, hustle and shot-blocking ability—are ideal for the full-court press defense Tyndall likes to play. Thus, it’s no surprise that Moore was recruited by Tyndall when the latter was head coach at Morehead State three years ago.
“Yeah, that’s how I played in AAU—up-tempo style, aggressive press and get after it a little bit,” Moore said. “I know Coach Tyndall likes a guy that can be aggressive and smart at the same time, somebody that just loves to get out there, play and have fun with it. That’s kind of how I like to play.”
Whereas Cuonzo Martin relied on halfcourt offense and defense, Tyndall wants his players forcing backcourt turnovers and scoring in transition. The mere thought brings a smile to Moore’s face.
“I feel like I fit into it pretty well,” he said. “It’s a very fun style to play. Most teams are going to get frustrated with the type of defense we’re going to throw at ‘em. It’s going to cause a lot of turnovers and get us a lot of easy buckets on the offensive end.”
It’s a good bet that Armani Moore will be causing a bunch of those turnovers this season. Despite his 6-foot-5 frame, he recently was singled out by Tyndall as the team’s best post defender. Moore accepts the praise with humility.
“It’s more experience than anything,” he said. “Our young guys are not experienced right now, so I think it’s about playing at this level before and kind of knowing how to play defense and being tougher than a lot of people.”
The key words: Knowing how to play defense and being tougher than a lot of people.
That formula worked for Dane Bradshaw. It may work just as well for Armani Moore.
‘BIG ORANGE MADNESS’ FRIDAY NIGHT
Fans can celebrate “Big Orange Madness” by watching the Vol and Lady Vol basketball teams tonight at Thompson-Boling Arena. The men will hold a dunking contest, then join their female counterparts for some 3-point shooting and scrimmaging. Autograph sessions are planned, as well. Gates open at 6 and the one-hour program starts at 7.