Bird of Trey: Q & A with North Florida point guard Dallas Moore, who’s started 2015–16 on fire
There’s not too much different with Dallas Moore for his junior season, Brian Morgan, North Florida men’s basketball sports information director, says over the phone on Thursday afternoon.
Well, actually…Morgan notes that there are a couple more tattoos winding up the arms of Moore, the Ospreys’ star junior point guard. Oh, and also: kid’s got more hops. When Moore exploded for a dunk the previous night against Edward Waters, the UNF Arena was beset by bedlam. “We didn’t know Dallas could dunk!”
It’s an indication of the ‘it’ factor Moore has exuded in this first week of the season. Dude is doing work, running point with consummate command for a team that returns a significant core from the group that went dancing last March.
Moore opened 2015–16 with back-to-back double-doubles, the first of his collegiate career, including 26 points and 10 assists in a 93–81 win at Illinois on opening night.
Through three games, the 6–1 lefty is averaging 24.3 points and 8.3 assists, while hitting 56% of his shots, and 55.6% of his threes. On Saturday, the next test in yet another daunting non-conference schedule awaits, against Louisville, at the Yum! Center.
Moore, along with these Ospreys, can’t wait.
AW: In addition to increased bounce on your end, there’s a real confidence about this North Florida team this season. Is that something you’ve noticed, too?
DM: For me, personally, I think it’s just from film study, getting in the gym in the offseason, and working with (North Florida head coach Matthew Driscoll). There was so much stuff I could get better at. I really focused on improving my mid-range jumper. Also, increasing my assists. I needed to get that up, and I talk with Coach a lot about playing within the offense.
I’ve grown and matured from my freshman to my junior year, in terms of getting guys shots. This summer, Coach was talking about me averaging 19 points and seven assists or something, and I was like Man…that’s kind of tough.
But I started season off by getting guys passes in places where they could knock down shots. The flow to our team has been tremendous. Everybody has gotten better. We’re so versatile—guys like Beau Beech and BaeBae Daniels are able to handle on wing, and knock down shots. It makes us tough to guard.
AW: Along with Daniels and Beech, there’s a strong returning core that has played together for several seasons. Has that conributed to it?
DM: Oh yeah. Since my freshman year, we’ve had pretty much the same group. Last year, two seniors (Jalen Nesbitt and Devin Wilson) played a big role, but the core guys are back for this season. I think we had 85% of scoring back.
So we knew that this year, after the end of last season, and that incredible run, the best in school history—we felt we could do better. Right now, we’re taking it one at a time. Getting stops, focusing on defense. We know we can score. And we got Louisville on Saturday. Really looking forward to that.
AW When you go into Big 10 country, against a team like Illinois, what’s the mood like with the team beforehand?
DM: Oh yeah, we look forward to it. Coach has a lot of faith in us, and we have faith in each other. We know we can go into any game and win.
When we saw Illinois was the first game on the schedule, we were excited. We just prepared, and did a great job executing. We love playing those types of teams.
AW: This summer, the team went on a trip to the Bahamas. What were some memories that stick out, for you? For a season with high expectations, do those 10 extra practices make a difference?
DM: I think it helps tremendously. During the summer, it’s usually just workouts and class. You don’t usually get to practice that much. It allows young guys to get up to speed, and our redshirts, too—they’ve been tremendous this year.
So, it was great to be in the Bahamas playing games, and getting used to game-like play.
AW: Last March, this program burst onto the map. There was the berth in the NCAA tournament, and one of the highest home attendance increases in the country. What are some highlights you’ll remember of ‘14–15?
DM: Just…us as a team. I know there was a point last season where we went 2–6, losing in the non-conference to Tennessee Tech, Iowa, but also beating Purdue. And I remember sitting in film during that stretch, and Coach told us, we’re really good.
I remember a play against Alabama, which was the last loss before we won seven games in a row. Romelo Banks had the ball inside, and he had a wide open jumper, but he skipped a pass to the corner to a guy that’d been struggling, shooting—and he hit it.
Coach called timeout and told us: that’s why we’ll win the A-Sun. We just love each other. Those are the kinds of things I remember, rushing the court after we won the tournament title, knowing we’d made the NCAA tournament.
AW: When I think St. Petersburg basketball (Moore hails from the city), Mo’ Buckets (Golden State Warriors forward Marreese Speights) unfailingly comes to mind. What’s the hoops scene like there? Who were some of your heroes, growing up?
DM: I would say watching high school basketball, growing up, was huge for me. There was a point guard at Largo High School, and he was so small out there, and at the time, I was small, too, and as I watched him, I thought, Man, you can do this if you put your mind to it.
Freshman year of high school, I didn’t play that much, but sophomore year I started, and all I could do was shoot. That’s what I was known for. Junior year, I began expanding my game. I’d had a really good connection with coach Driscoll, and since my sophomore year, I knew I was coming to North Florida. It was the best fit for me.
AW: In what ways did you look to expand your game this offseason? Were there discussions with the coaching staff about increasing your role?
DM: I would say it has to do with experince, but Coach also sends me clips of guys like Mike Conley, Isaiah Thomas—lefty guys, like me. And he sends me Steph clips as well. Guys to look up to, how they deal with ball screen coverage, and stuff like that.
AW: You’ve got a day off at UNF. What are you usually up to?
DM: An off day, for me…I’ve got one today, actually, and I just get a lot of rest. My teacher actually cancelled class, too, so I was happy about that. Real happy. (Laughs)
It lets me get some extra sleep, and I’ll probably head to the gym to put up shots with Beau, later. Probably 4:30 or 5. But I was on campus earlier, the girls had a game, and fans were coming up and saying how excited they are about this season. I love the people on campus. Then, I went to Einstein’s, and I was talking with people there too. It’s really fun.