Originally created 06/28/99

Moore projected to be a late pick



He may be stuck with the label, but he doesn't have to like it.

Ricky Moore's smooth head cocks to the side as he gives you that "you must be kidding" glare and takes solace in his record. Go ahead and say he's a "defensive specialist," but just make sure you remember to add "champion" to the analysis.

It's not that he takes exception to being described as an outstanding defender. Moore just doesn't want to be thought of as one-dimensional. Wasn't he seen in the NCAA championship game scoring 13-first half points? How about the 19 points he averaged leading Westside High School to the 1995 Class AAA championship?

If given the opportunity, Moore believes he could find similar success in the NBA. The NBA Draft is Wednesday in Washington, D.C., and will be televised on TNT beginning at 7:30 p.m.

"I just play within my role of the team," Moore said. "I help win games. I'm a winner, and if they don't like that, then they don't like me. I don't try to go out there to impress anybody by scoring points or with my defense.

"I go out there to win and I've done that throughout my career at UConn. You can't take away my record."

Maybe it's Moore's mellow persona that allows people to overlook his offensive attributes. Chest-pounding and grandstanding aren't part of the 6-foot-2-inch point guard's repertoire. Moore will just flash his 1999 NCAA championship ring to remind you of his accomplishments.

Moore's acceptance of a lesser offensive role resulted in Connecticut's first national championship. Buck Harris, who coached Moore's Augusta Metros squad, said the aspiring professional's versatility and commitment to winning make him NBA material.

"He's not going to say too many things," Harris said. "He's a winner. He'll do whatever it takes to win. Those (NBA) general managers should look at how he's won at every level he's been."

Despite his extensive resume, Moore is projected to be a late second-round pick at best. Basketball Weekly and CBS SportsLine both have Moore listed as the 48th-best prospect.

In its mock draft, Basketball Weekly predicts the Milwaukee Bucks will select Moore with the 48th pick. The Bucks only have one pick in the two-round draft and could use a solid backup to point guard Sam Cassell.

This year's draft is saturated with guards, so going undrafted is a very real possibility for Moore, who worked out with the Atlanta Hawks and attended a pre-draft camp in Chicago earlier this year. Keith Drum, a Sacramento Kings scout, said Moore could choose his future employer if he's not taken.

"He might be better off not being drafted," Drum said. "If he's not drafted at least a half-dozen teams could be after him."

Harris has witnessed Moore's progression since 1993. He said the Westside product would talk casually about playing professionally but never got lost in his dreams. Moore focused on his development and is close to fulfilling his childhood goal.

"All I can do now is pursue an NBA career and work as hard as I can," said Moore, whose No. 21 was retired by Westside. "If I don't get drafted, I'll go to Europe to pursue my basketball career for as long as I can."

The first step for Moore to complete a rare trifecta is to make an NBA roster. His quest to join a very exclusive fraternity could begin Wednesday.

"If I were to win (a championship) on the NBA level, that would be unbelievable because you seldom find guys who won on the high school level, collegiate level and then on the professional level," Moore said.

Jimmy DeButts can be reached at (706) 823-3221.