Pitt sophomore J.J. Moore scored in double figures three times in the first 10 games last season, and then he vanished. What once seemed like a promising freshman season ended with Moore barely getting off the bench.
Moore's role on the team diminished considerably once Big East play began. He saw action in just 10 of the final 19 games of the season, including one minute of mop-up duty in the NCAA tournament.
As Moore embarks on an important summer in his development, the 6-foot-6 small forward is looking to re-establish himself with coach Jamie Dixon and develop into a consistent player for the Panthers.
Ashton Gibbs has been Pitt's leading scorer the past two seasons and will fill the same role as a senior. But the Panthers lost Brad Wanamaker and Gilbert Brown, who were the second- and third-leading scorers the past two years. No one else on the roster has averaged double figures in scoring.
Moore is one of the team's most naturally gifted players and has the ability to become the team's secondary scorer behind Gibbs. Now it's up to him to earn the opportunity.
"I think I'm very capable of being that guy," Moore said. "I see myself being good for the team. I can come off the bench if [Dixon] wants me to. I'll start if he wants me to. It's up to Jamie. I'm going to work hard in practice. I'm going to play harder. I've been getting in the gym every day at 6 in the morning. I'm just ready and mentally prepared for whatever he wants me to do."
Moore showed off his offensive skills last week at the Pittsburgh Basketball Club Pro-Am when he scored in 26 points in a losing effort in his second game of the summer league season. Pitt fans were teased with Moore's scoring prowess early on last season. He scored a team-high 19 points in a home victory against North Florida and had 11 and 10 against Penn and Delaware State, respectively.
Moore received the bulk of the playing time as the top reserve at small forward behind Brown, averaging more than 10 minutes per game. But when Big East play got underway, Moore was supplanted in the rotation by Lamar Patterson, who was the top reserve behind Brown for the remainder of the season.
"I knew that was going to happen because of the way his rotation is," Moore said. "He doesn't play freshmen. I heard about that. I knew that was going to happen sooner or later."
Patterson, also a sophomore, had the benefit of redshirting the previous season and knew the ins and outs of Dixon's system. Patterson and Moore are different players. While Moore is athletic and has a nice outside shooting touch, Patterson is considered to be a much better passer, rebounder and a solid defender.
They will be competing against each other for the starting spot in the fall, but both figure to be major contributors.
"I think I have a fair shot [at the starting job]," Moore said. "Me and Lamar are always going at it in practice. Coach is always looking at Lamar more over me because Lamar looks to dish the ball, he creates space and kicks out to other players. Coach is looking for Lamar more, but I'm just working hard. Whatever he gives me, it is what it is."
Moore said Dixon wants his defensive effort to increase this summer. If Moore is willing to become a better on-ball defender, it could mean winning the starting job and earning more minutes. And that could mean a more explosive offensive attack for the Panthers.
"He definitely told me to work on my defense," Moore said. "That was a big factor in me not playing last year. Pitt is known for defense. He said work on defense and my ball handling and my passing more, too.
Ray Fittipaldo: email@example.com or 412-263-1230.