Moore: She's good, and getting better Girls basketball: Shani Moore, the 6-foot center for No. 1-ranked McDonogh, is just beginning to realize her potential in the sport.

January 16, 1998|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

After Shani Moore's older brother Westley watched her play a JV basketball game as a McDonogh freshman, he told her that if her skills ever caught up to her athletic ability, she would be unstoppable.

Her basketball coaches have been making that same assessment ever since.

"She has unlimited potential," said Deb Taylor, Moore's Amateur Athletic Union coach in 1996 and coach at Archbishop Spalding.

"When I got her, Shani hadn't played a ton of competitive basketball. All summer, she relied on her athleticism, but her skills started to improve and she started to gain confidence. Her best years are still ahead of her."

Moore is so gifted athletically that her skills still have some distance to go to catch up, but her emergence as an inside force has been the main factor behind McDonogh's rise to the area's No. 1 ranking this season.

A second-team All-Baltimore City/County pick last year, the 6-foot senior has grown into one of the area's dominant centers just in the last year.

"She's always been able to jump and rebound," said Roland Park coach Scott Buckley, "but in the past she only scored by getting other people's misses. Last year, if she was a couple feet away from the basket, we'd just let her go. Now she can put the ball on the floor and go to the basket herself. She gives them a whole new dimension."

Averaging 14.5 points and 12 rebounds, Moore has played her best against the area's other top teams, including a 21-point, 15-rebound performance in a 58-43 win over No. 2 Roland Park.

Before she arrived at McDonogh in the ninth grade, Moore had never played basketball. She competed in cross country, gymnastics and track in middle school.

A testimony to her athletic prowess is her performance at last winter's Private School Championship indoor track meet. Because of basketball, she had not trained for track but still won three gold medals.

In the spring, she won four events at the Maryland Private School Championship track and field meet. Her 14.4-second high hurdles time and 5-7 high jump were among the season's best marks, earning her All-Metro status for a second straight year.

As a sophomore, Moore cleared 5-8 in the high jump outdoors -- the metro area's best height for the season. In practice, she has jumped 5-10.

"When she's in competition, her ability to focus allows her athletic feats to come through," said McDonogh track coach Jeff Sanborn. "That's why she jumps 5-8s and runs 14.4s. When she gets on the line, there are no holds barred."

For a while, Moore was torn between sports, but faced with choosing between the national high school track championships or AAU basketball last spring, she opted for basketball.

Widely recruited for basketball, track and academics, Moore, who carries a 3.8 grade-point average, will go to Princeton and play basketball. Still, she hopes to compete in track, too.

For Moore, the appeal of basketball is twofold -- the team dynamic as well as the challenge.

"I definitely have to work harder at basketball," said Moore. "There are a lot of skills I have to learn if I want to play at the level that everybody else is able to."

Moore said she aspires to reach the level of McDonogh teammates Mary Urban and Vicki Brick, AAU veterans who were first-team All-City/County players last year.

"When I saw Mary and Vicki playing, I realized how good a girls team could be," said Moore, who began playing AAU ball at Urban's suggestion.

In the past two years, Moore has helped the Chesapeake Bay Hurricanes to appearances in the AAU national tournament and helped the Eagles to two Association of Independent Schools titles. All the while, she has continued working on her own, with a shooting coach and at camps.

"Shani is so determined and so coachable," said McDonogh coach Katie Keating. "She will try to do everything you ask her to do. If you tell her what's going to happen, she adjusts and does whatever she has to."

Moore said her inspiration to excel -- at athletics and academics -- comes from her mother, Joy Moore. After Shani's father died when she was barely a toddler, her mother worked three jobs to put Shani, Westley, 19, and Nikki, 24, through private schools.

"My mother taught me never to be satisfied," said Moore, 17. "As hard as you're working, you can always be working harder."

Pub Date: 1/16/98

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