Ben Moore, 6' 8" senior forward, SMU
Former SMU coach Larry Brown and his assistants first spotted Moore when they were recruiting his Chicago-based AAU teammate, Cliff Alexander. The Moore they saw, the Moore they liked. “He was one of those long, athletic guys who could handle the ball,” says Mustangs coach Tim Jankovich, who took over as head coach after Brown retired last summer. “He was a little under-assuming, he never tried to be ‘the guy,’ but he had an all-around game, and he played to win.”
It wasn’t until Moore’s freshman season at SMU started that Jankovich realized just how poised and intelligent he was on the court. Specifically, Jankovich cites the third game that season, when the Mustangs lost, 89–78, at Arkansas. Not only did Moore surprise the coaches by shooting 8-for-10 from the floor and scoring 19 points, but he also repeatedly, and successfully, brought the ball up the court against the Razorbacks’ vaunted full-court pressure. That combination of cool demeanor, high IQ and diverse skill set has made Moore a valuable asset to the Mustangs these last four years.
This season, Moore has been a Glue Guy among Glue Guys. The Mustangs have an unusual lineup that features five starters who are all between 6’ 6” and 6’ 9”. Their motion offense requires versatility and dependable decision making. Moore is often called upon to handle the point guard duties when the team’s regular point, sophomore Shake Milton, is either out of the game or off the ball. On defense, Moore ostensibly plays the center position as well, but he frequently switches out on ball screens, and Jankovich is content to let him check much smaller guards. This makes Moore, in Jankovich’s words, “a one through five guy on both ends of the floor.” That’s an unusual combination, to say the least.
Moore also ranks fourth in the AAC in rebounds at 8.2 per game. He may not choose to score a lot, but he has proven he can if the team needs him to—such as his nine points and eight rebounds in the second half to help SMU erase a 15-point halftime deficit against Tulane. Moore is averaging about the same number of points as he did last season (11.8), but his field goal percentage has increased from 54.9% to 57.5%. “He’s the kind of player who will wait to see if he needs to score,” Jankovich says. “When I’m watching film of our games, I’ll actually laugh sometimes because you can see how far ahead of the action his mind is working. He does a lot of little subtle things that you miss during the live game.”
With the NCAA tournament approaching, Moore hopes his career will end better than the last two seasons did. When Moore was a sophomore, the Mustangs were knocked out in the first round of the NCAA tournament courtesy of a controversial goaltending call against UCLA. Last year, the Mustangs were prohibited from playing in the postseason due to NCAA violations. He may be a little unassuming, but he is a big reason why SMU is poised for a deep tournament run.