J.J. Moore came to Pitt as a 6-foot-6, 200-pound small forward. Tall and lanky was an apt description for him when he matriculated to the university from Long Island. As Moore gets set to begin his junior season, words like jacked and ripped are being used to describe his appearance.
Moore has bulked up to 215 pounds and looks like he could play defensive end for Pitt football coach Paul Chryst. He won't be pulling off that position switch, but he is adding power forward to his resume this fall.
Expect to see Moore playing some at power forward tonight when the Panthers play host to IUP in their first exhibition game of the season at the Petersen Events Center.
The position switch has been a long time coming, but Moore's new body is the result of an offseason in which he had to do more weight lifting than running and shooting because of a foot injury. Moore sustained a fractured fifth metatarsal in his right foot in the spring and could not play basketball all summer. He had surgery to repair the injury in April and did not get back on the court until last month.
- Matchup: Pitt vs. IUP, 7 p.m. today, Petersen Events Center.
- TV, Radio: Pitt Panthers Television (Comcast channels 188 or 210).
- Pitt: Playing first exhibition game of the season. ... Beat IUP, 73-56, in 2010 exhibition game at the Petersen Events Center. ... Returning starters include senior G Tray Woodall (11.7 ppg, 6.1 apg) and junior F Lamar Patterson (9.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg). ... Senior C Dante Taylor (5.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg) and junior F Talib Zanna (6.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg) were part-time starters last season. ... Junior G Trey Zeigler transferred from Central Michigan after leading the Chippewas in scoring the past two seasons. ... Debut game for freshman C Steven Adams, the Big East preseason rookie of the year.
- Team: Went 23-6 last season with 20-3 record in PSAC. ... Head coach Joe Lombardi is entering his sixth season. ... Lombardi, a former Pitt assistant coach under Jamie Dixon from 2003-06, has a 123-59 record with the Crimson Hawks.
- Hidden stat: Pitt has not lost an exhibition game since dropping a 92-90 decision to Marathon Oil in 1998.
For four months, the weight room became Moore's refuge when he could do little else.
"He couldn't do any shooting or running, so he was in the weight room working hard," coach Jamie Dixon said. "He's always been a hard worker. He did about as much as he could with that situation. Lifting is what he focused on."
Moore averaged 7.5 points per game as a sophomore last season, but he had a hard time getting on the court on a regular basis because starting small forward Lamar Patterson was playing so well in front of him.
Moore didn't possess a very well-rounded game last season. He excelled in the open court and dazzled when he got out on fastbreaks and threw down some of his signature dunks, but he didn't earn a regular role in Dixon's rotation because he was a streaky shooter, didn't handle the ball particularly well and was an inconsistent defender.
With Nasir Robinson gone after three seasons as the starting power forward, Dixon is searching for answers at the position for the upcoming season. He has 6-foot-9 junior Talib Zanna ready when he wants to play with a big lineup, but Moore is a nice alternative if the Panthers want to play with a more athletic lineup.
"I'm definitely ready to make that transition and play power forward," Moore said. "We've been practicing right now with me being the power forward. It's looking good. I think it's looking good for the team, as a matter of fact. With me as a power forward, the guys can get open because we can space the floor."
Moore and Patterson played at the same time on some occasions last season, but Moore usually played small forward and Patterson, who is known for his versatility, moved to power forward. But when Patterson developed into the team's best player by the end of last season, it made sense for him to remain at the same position.
Moore was playing extremely well at season's end, too, which is why Dixon would like to find a way for them to play together.
"You have to get your best players on the floor," Dixon said. "We've always done that. That's been a reason for our success over the years. They've played a lot together. We've played small. We'll practice it more than we've practiced it in the past."pittsports
Ray Fittipaldo: email@example.com and Twitter @rayfitt1.