Nick Moore hoisted his last jump shot as a small college basketball player months ago.
With a collection of all-conference honors and a degree in hand, Moore, a two-year starter for The Evergreen State College, faced a difficult decision after graduation. Should he get a 9-to-5 job, putting his degree in horticulture to use? Or should he pursue professional basketball?
“I’ve had some sleepless nights,” Moore said. “I think I’ve got some more basketball in me.”
Moore, like many of his teammates for the Olympia Reign, is a dream-chaser, hoping to sign a proessional contract in the United States or in Europe.
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Last week, Moore and teammate Michael Ward flew to Los Angeles to take part in an invitational tryout for the NBA Development League. They were among 200 invited players who divided into 20 teams and played four games.
“My coach circled my name on his list of names,” Moore said. “He said he’d get my name out there to the scouts.”
In pursuit of his dream, Moore will play for the Reign at 7:30 tonight in a game against the Seattle Mountaineers at Evergreen. The Reign is part of the International Basketball League, a 5-year-old league that plays 20-game seasons and has 21 teams across the country. The Reign is playing an abbreviated six-game schedule this season and team owner Mark Felton plans to join the league full time next year if he gets needed sponsorship.
“This league gives guys like Nick and Mike an opportunity to pursue their dream,” Felton said.
Of the 500 applicants for last week’s tryout for the NBADL, 200 were invited. Only 40 of those players will be added to the development league’s draft in November.
Later this month, Moore and Giovonne Woods, a former all-league player at River Ridge High and a recent Central Washington graduate, will fly to Chicago for a tryout camp for European leagues. Woods also will play tonight for the Reign.
Moore, Woods and Ward all hope to play basketball professionally, one day drawing a paycheck to shoot hoops. For now, it’s costing them time and money. Moore pays for his own flights, food and hotels in Los Angeles and Chicago. He works out every day, lifting weights and shooting baskets at Evergreen. He has tried to pick up a job in a warehouse or laying floor tile without success.
“I want to stay ready,” said Moore, a 6-foot-7 forward. “But I’ve got bills to pay. It’s hard.”
To cut expenses, Moore moved home. He’s hired an agent and is confident he’ll sign a professional basketball contract.
“I’ll do anything. I’ll play anywhere,” Moore said. “I see myself playing in the IBL for a while. It’s a way to stay sharp. It’s good basketball.”
The Reign is coached by Steve Smothers, a former Saint Martin’s player. With its abbreviated schedule, the team is carrying between eight and 10 players. Other players include Marcus Whittaker, Marcus Wright, Steve Trotter and Bill Richardson. The Seattle Mountaineers are led by Donald Watts, the former Washington Huskies guard.
“When I came out of college, the only thing you could do is go into the (Continental Basketball Association),” Smothers said. “The IBL gives college players an opportunity to get exposure. It helps get their face out there.”
At the European league tryout, Moore said there will be scouts from Germany, Lithuania, Iceland and Switzerland.
The lure of money and love of the game keep Moore’s plans on hold. He doesn’t want to look back and regret not giving it a shot.
“There’s a lot of guys in the NBA with stories,” Moore said. “A lot of guys had to overcome stuff. I want to have my own story.”
He’s got the support of his family, including his grandmother.
“I said to my grandma, ‘What would you think about wearing my NBA jersey some day?’ ” Moore said. “I told her not to count that out.”
Gail Wood: 360-754-5443