Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
NEW YORK – On the last play of the Jordan Brand Regional Game Saturday at Madison Square Garden, J.J. Moore stole the ball on the wing, drove toward the basket and threw down a thunderous one-handed dunk.
A 6-foot-5 wing from Brentwood, N.Y. who signed to play at Pittsburgh, Moore scored 26 points on 10 of 16 shooting as the Suburban Team downed the City Team, 137-133.
“It was very exciting,” said Moore, who made 3 of 4 from beyond the arc. “First of all, it was exciting to even be picked to play in Madison Square Garden. I’ve never played in here and this is a great atmosphere.”
Seton Hall-bound wing Fuquan Edwin of Paterson (N.J.) Catholic also scored 26 points and grabbed five rebounds, meaning the two future Big East players accounted for 52 of their team’s points.
“Those guys definitely shined through,” said Mike Kelly, the Suburban Team coach who also coaches at Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peter’s Prep. “Fu does so many things. Fu really played hard and J.J. Moore is an incredible talent. He is an incredible talent. And I’m a Pitt alum so I’m going to be happy with him up at Pittsburgh.”
Moore left Brentwood High School on Long Island before his senior year to spend a prep year at the South Kent (Conn.) school.
Playing under head coach Kelvin Jefferson, Moore averaged 29 points per game while competing against many of the top prep school players in America, including Memphis-bound guard Will Barton, who played at Brewster (N.H.) Academy and was featured in the Jordan All-American Game.
“The biggest development from when he was at Brentwood to this year at South Kent is his ability to score from outside of defenses. He can hit the 3 off the catch consistently. In the past that wasn’t something he could do. He was always athletic. He was always a great transition scorer, he could always get to the basket,” said Tom Konchalski, who has covered New York high school basketball for four decades.
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon called Moore “his next Sam Young,” the former Big East start now with the Memphis Grizzlies.
“Wow, that’s pretty incredible,” Kelly said. “He’s got the strength and power that Sam Young has. I think he shoots the ball deeper than Young did. He’s got the body and he’s a great kid.”
Asked how it felt to be compared to an NBA player, Moore said: “It makes me feel confident that I can definitely be able to be in the NBA and play at the next level.”
While Moore is ready to break out at Pitt, the 6-5 Edwin was 12 of 21 from the field, 0 for 2 from beyond the arc.
“Fuquan in the past, I’ve seen him shoot the 3 better,” Konchalski said. “He can really score. He’s an opportunistic scorer.”
Edwin is looking forward to suiting up for new Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard and said he wants to work on his defense, his face-up game and his handle at the next level.
“I think I need to work on my face-up, getting people off my first step, get them slipping,” he said. “That’s about it really.”
Defensively, Edwin wants to model himself after Los Angeles Lakers star Ron Artest.
Before they were shut down, Edwin used to live in the Alabama projects in Paterson, one of the toughest neighborhoods in that city. He sees similarities to Artest, who’s from the Queensbridge projects in Queens.
“I see Ron Artest playing hard,” he said. “Just knowing where he comes form, his background is similar. Different locations.”
Edwin has a large tattoo across his chest that reads, “Only God Can Judge Me.” Underneath are two smaller phrases, “Born crying” and “Die happy.”
Asked what it meant to him, Edwin said, “I don’t care what nobody else says, only God can judge me.”
BIRUTA WAITING ON RUTGERS SITUATIONGilvydas Biruta can’t make a move until the Fred Hill mess is cleared up at Rutgers.
Biruta, a 6-foot-8 forward originally from Lithuania, has asked to be released from his Letter of Intent at the Big East school, but it has not been granted.
Rutgers is apparently waiting to either officially fire Hill or reach a financial settlement with him before proceeding with the St. Benedict’s Prep forward.
“I’m just waiting for my release from Rutgers,” Biruta said after putting up a double-double of 10 points and 14 rebounds for the Suburban Team.
Biruta has taken only one official visit — to Rutgers — and is considering a number of other schools for his college destination.
“Seton Hall, Maryland, Creighton, Georgia Tech, Arizona State, these are the schools,” he said.
ROBERTS LIKE ST. JOE’S
Former St. John’s signee Ronald Roberts met with St. Joe’s coach Phil Martelli Friday night.
“It was good,” said the 6-7 Roberts, who scored eight points and grabbed four rebounds for the Suburban Team. “He clarified everything about the school. It was really good.”
Roberts asked for, and received, his release from St. John’s after Steve Lavin replaced Norm Roberts last month.
Roberts has three official visits left and is considering Oklahoma and Georgia Tech.
“Since I have three left, I might as well take the visits, see what happens,” Roberts said.
He added: “I still want to check out the other schools, but I think St. Joe’s right now is on the top of my list.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.