Hoops signee update: Edgar Moreno

IT visited with <B>Dale Dotson</B>, coach of the Lon Morris Bearkats basketball team, and touched on a multitude of topics ranging from his coaching background to <B>Edgar Moreno's</B> talents, thoughts on the international quality of basketball compared to the U.S.A.'s current state, as well as a few other things.

Dotson, an alumnus of The University of Texas, played a little guard for the Horns and later became an assistant coach for the Men's basketball team from 1969-76 under Leon Black. At this point, he has totaled 37 years as a basketball coach and is in his 14th-year at Lon Morris Junior College.

When asked how he discovered Edgar Moreno, current commit for Rick Barnes' 2003 recruiting class, Dotson said, "Well, I don't think anyone knew about him. As a matter of fact, I'm relatively positive that nobody did. We had seen some film on him and knew where he was...so, we began recruiting him and if it was luck that allowed us to land him, then I hope we have some more of it."

Moreno, a 6-4, 195-pound point guard from Choco, Columbia averaged 14 points, 7 assists, 3-4 boards and 1-2 steals a game as a freshman. This year, he's averaging 19 points and 7 assists a game, after going off for 25 in his last game. According to his coach, he can do it all.

"He can pretty well do everything," the former UT assistant coach said. "He's got good quickness, good speed, and is shooting 80 percent from the free throw line. He can score, take it to the rack and he can defend. He's not a high-flyer, doesn't do all of this fancy stuff, and he's not flashy, you know, he's not an Allen Iverson-type. And he's not one of those guys who says, 'Watch this!' But at the end of the game, when he gets done, he'll have 25 points, 6-7 assists and 5-6 rebounds."

Sounds like he doesn't have mad hops. "No, but he did dunk over two people last night," said Dotson.

Yeah, but is he one of the better players? "When you talk about how good a player is, there's a difference in how you go about categorizing what a good player is," said the coach of the No. 3 team in NJCAA Div. I-A. "You know, are you looking for the guy who can dribble between his legs and do 360-degree dunks? I categorize a good player by a guy who knows the game. A guy who knows how to play and can do everything, like get other people buckets, get himself buckets...knows where he is on the court and where everyone else should be and a guy who can make a big defensive stop when you need him to. That's Edgar's game."

According to Dotson, you can never predict how a player might perform at the next level, but he emphasized the fact that Moreno is getting it done at the highest level in junior college ball. He went on to say that even though he's not in the prognostication business, all a person can do is project. And he projects the all-everything point guard to do very well at the next level (NCAA Div. I-A).

Asked what the similarities of NJCAA ball and NCAA Div. I are as far as the regular season and playoffs are concerned, Dotson said: "In junior college ball we have three divisions just like the NCAA. They have a Division I, II and III as do we. Our regular season spans 30 games and we've got 12 teams in our conference just like the Big 12. We play the 11 teams in our conference twice making up 22 of our 30 games, just a brutal conference stretch. Then, the top eight teams in our conference make what we call our regional tournament. We're region 14 and there are a total of 16 regions, counting us, across the country. If you win your regional, then you make it to the NJCAA National Championships. And that makes 16 teams competing for the championship as opposed to the NCAA having 65, used to be 64."

So, would Coach Dotson want a playoff if he coached NCAA Div. 1-A football?

"Boy, would I -- in a heartbeat," he said with a chuckle. "You know, I saw what happened in college basketball when they decided to go to 64 teams. That added more excitement to an already exciting game. And I'm not sure that you get the best team when you play one game. The better team doesn't always win. But, when you play 4-5 games in a playoff atmosphere, I'm not sure that you don't have a more worthy champion than the last team standing. And until college football does this, there will always be a question of who is better. I'm not sure about the logistics involved but college football can certainly figure it out and they need to."

Considering the United States Men's Basketball World Championship Team had never lost a game in international competition since being comprised of NBA players, at least not until Argentina defeated them in early September of 2002, not to mention eventually losing to Yugoslavia and Spain resulting in a sixth-place finish at the 2002 FIBA World Championship, you get the impression that the international level has closed the gap on the U.S.A. Dotson, in addition to having Moreno from the Columbian National Team, has a couple of other South American players on his team, both being from Argentina's National Team. And he credits the recent success of the international basketball being played to fundamentals.

"Our game, has become a great athlete's game," Dotson said. "Put an athlete with a guy who knows the game and you get Michael Jordan. You see, he was always credited for his athletic ability, but not nearly enough for his understanding of the game. Our guys can jump out of the gym, dribble between their legs and dunk it better than anyone else can, but they can't hit a free throw. I think it goes back to coaching in the 7th- and 8th-grades where our game has become more 'showbiz' than anything else. The European-style of play as well as other countries across the globe, like Argentina, are playing the kind of basketball we used to play. Unfortunately, they (foreign-born basketball players) know more about the game than we do. They know how to play the game. Call it knowing the intricacies of the game, if you will. But they are skilled in the fundamentals, such as blocking out and they are taught how to shoot the ball and they work and work and work at it. They can block, jump, shoot, steal and play the game with a lot of aggressiveness -- very physical."

Rick Barnes make no bones about delving into the juco-ranks when he spots a player suiting the scheme and brand of basketball he likes to play. When you consider the skills and know-how overseas basketball players posses, Edgar Moreno fits like a glove. And it gets even better when you measure the kid's personality off the court.

"Edgar's just a great, great guy," said Dotson. "He's a guy you fall in love with the first time you meet him. Always has a big smile on his face, just a great kid. He's very intelligent, very smart and makes good grades. He's happy to be here, very unassuming, very appreciative and he takes care of business."

Welcome aboard Edgar!

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