SEattle - Reggie Moore returns home tonight as an integral part of the hottest basketball team in the Pacific-10 Conference, and the Washington State Cougars (9-2) would like to thank the archrival Washington Huskies for making it all possible.
Moore, WSU’s crimson blur of a point guard, said he never would have gone to Pullman if not for the rave reviews that Cougars coach Ken Bone earned from former Huskies standouts Nate Robinson and Tre Simmons.
“Coach Bone is about 90 percent of the reason I came here,” Moore said.
Moore’s good friends Robinson and Simmons played at Washington when Bone was an assistant coach for the Huskies. Bone eventually became head coach at Portland State, and when Bone was hired at WSU last April, he quickly beat out everyone from Memphis to UCLA to Arizona to Miami (Fla.) to sign Moore to a letter of intent.
“Obviously, it’s made us better,” Cougars star Klay Thompson said.
Thompson, Bone and WSU fans don’t even want to think about where the Cougars would be without Moore. The former Rainier Beach High School standout averages 12.6 points, 5.3 assists, 1.5 steals and just 2.1 turnovers per game for the Cougars, who take on Louisiana State tonight at 7 (CBS College Sports) in the fifth annual Cougar Hardwood Classic at KeyArena.
“I’m as pleased with Reggie as anybody on the team,” Bone said. “I mean, here’s a young man who’s a freshman coming in playing right around 30 minutes a game. His turnover ratio is far better than anyone else in the program, and he has the ball in his hands a lot.”
Moore is the spark plug who makes the engine purr in the up-tempo offense Bone brought with him from Portland State. In the Pac-10, only Washington (84.3 points per game) outscores the Cougars (80.9), who ranked last in the conference a year ago with 59.2 ppg.
“We’re playing well,” Moore said after racking up a season-high 12 assists and, for the third time this season, no turnovers in WSU’s 93-69 rout of Portland State on Saturday.
“Obviously, we’re really young. That plays a part in some aspects of the game. Sometimes we lose focus a little bit, but that’ll get better as the season goes on as we learn about each other more.”
Moore and Bone agree that Moore could focus on defense better at times. That’s about the only complaint anyone seems to have about Moore, a cousin of Houston Rockets point guard Aaron Brooks.
“He’s not playing like a freshman,” said senior Nikola Koprivica, the Cougars’ only upperclassman. “He’s doing a great job for us.”
Moore, WSU’s second-leading scorer behind Thompson (24.9), is shooting 49 percent from the field, 39 percent on 3-pointers and 86 percent at the foul line. He ranks among the Pac-10 leaders with 69 free throws, thanks primarily to mad-cap dashes through the lane for dunks, dishes or crashes into larger opponents that send the 6-foot-1, 178-pound Moore sprawling to the floor.
“He’s a Rainier Beach guy; those kids are tough,” Bone said approvingly.
Moore, who was the state Class 3A player of the year in 2007-08 for the state champions of Rainier Beach, is the most high-profile basketball recruit WSU has lured from the Seattle area in eons. Not that it was easy, or conventional.
Moore signed a letter of intent with Fresno State two years ago. After visiting the campus and coming away less than overwhelmed with Fresno, he asked to be released from his letter.
The Bulldogs refused to set Moore free, so he spent last season at prep school powerhouse Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H. Rural New Hampshire proved to be quite an eye-opener for Moore.
“At first, I hated it,” Moore said. “I wanted to go home. But man, it became really fun. I liked it a lot.
“Actually, when it was time to leave, I didn’t want to leave at all. I grew really tight friendships there.”
WSU forward DeAngelo Casto, who shared MVP honors with Moore at the Washington-Oregon all-star game for high school seniors in 2008, kept in close contact with Moore last season.
“I kept telling Coach Bone, ‘We’ve got to get this guy,’ ” Casto said.
Moore had drawn WSU’s interest even before Casto intervened. However, Moore said he was more interested in Oregon and California until Bone convinced him that two big-city guys from Seattle could work wonders in a small town in the Palouse.
Thames’ tests negative
Blood tests on Cougars guard Xavier Thames came back negative. Bone has been concerned about the freshman’s energy level.