Basketball: Conversation with Alexis Moore

USC has three practices remaining this week before it departs for nine days in Brazil on Friday. We caught up with freshman point guard Alexis Moore after a session over the weekend and talked over his assessment through the first week of practice, including his view of his potential role on the team and what he expects out of the Brazil trip. During the practice, he was hit by an errant elbow from a teammate and needed stitches afterward.

PM: So you’ve got a cut on your chin there, which your coach, Kevin O'Neill, tells me is the result of a bit of a mistake on your part. Explain what he means by that.

AM: I was out of position. That’s what happens when you’re out of position. I didn’t rotate down to the block to cut off Aaron [Fuller] and he came across with his elbow and kinda gave me a nice shot to the chin. It’s all part of the learning process. I’ll go down and get stitches and I’ll be fine.

PM: Have you ever been punished like that when you were out of position before?

AM: Not this bad. That was the first time. This is the first time I’m actually gonna need something major like this -- I’ve had a few sprained ankles, but this is probably the biggest thing. But it’s definitely a learning experience. I definitely know to be in the right position next time.

PM: Give me your assessment of the first week of practice. Is it more than you expected, equal to it or less?

AM: I fully expected all of this. I knew coming in it was going to be a whole different speed, tempo, everything. That kinda stuff didn’t really surprise me. What did surprise me was just how fast I was going to have to pick everything up. I have to run the red team, being the captain of that team and stuff. Being a freshman, there’s no time for me to play that card where I can’t lead the guys or anything. I have to continue to lead the guys and make sure everyone’s on the same page.

PM: I remember at the first practice O’Neill sort of took you and Byron [Wesley] aside during practice for a second and said something along the lines of, ‘I’m not asking you to know exactly what you’re doing all the time, I’m just asking you to find your way through it and put in your full effort.’ Have you been able to do that?

AM: Yeah, definitely. If you give 110 percent effort, K.O.’s not gonna be mad in terms of you picking up everything. Obviously everyone knows they’re gonna make mistakes. I know that I’m gonna make mistakes. I’m not trying to come out here and be perfect, even though that’s gonna be my job in the future. But I know now that when I make a mistake I just have to keep moving and not slow down or anything.

PM: This team has three solid point guards, but it seems like you’re the backup, really, because [Mo] Jones is playing mostly shooting guard. Is that what you expect -- to be the No. 2 guy at that position?

AM: I leave that up to the coaching staff. I’m just here to get in and contribute to the team however I can. If coach says you’re playing the 1, if he says you’re playing the 3, if he says you’re playing the 5, I’m gonna play whatever position I can to help the team win. At the end of the day, that’s my main objective -- to contribute to the team to get the victory.

PM: Your high school numbers don’t stand out like some other Division I signees do. Do you mainly attribute that to the fact that you played at such an elite program like Long Beach Poly?

AM: In high school, my job was never to come down and lead the team in scoring. I’m not that type of point guard. I’m kind of like a Rajon Rondo in terms of pass-first, run-the-offense, kind of, and actually that’s kind of been to my deficit a little bit, in terms of people telling me, ‘You need to score.’ How many points I scored didn’t really bother me. At the end of the day, if Ryan [Anderson] was getting the ball and he was scoring, if Alex [Carmon] was getting the ball, I was fine with that. And then there were times where they looked at me like, ‘You need to score.’ So I just ran the team as best as I could and it ended up in a CIF victory, so I’m happy with it.

PM: How does the rigidity of this program compare to what you had at Poly?

AM: Poly’s program was definitely discipline-oriented. We would have two or three-hour practices. Coach [Sharrief] Metoyer wasn’t forgiving, in terms of how he coached. I would definitely say that this is harder in terms of the speed and everything. K.O.’s a little bit more, uh, colorful in his word choice, but, other than that, I think that Poly definitely prepared me pretty well. My dad coached me when I was young and he also prepared me. I knew it was gonna be a tough environment coming in, but I’m the type of kid that, if you give me a challenge, I’ll do whatever it takes to get over it.

PM: There are recruits here today who were probably a little bit surprised by what they heard from coach O’Neill during practice. Do you recall a time where you were similarly surprised?

AM: I took an unofficial visit my junior year and I didn’t get to watch a practice then, but when I came on my official visit my senior year I saw how loud and rowdy he can get. That didn’t really scare me away. I’m the kind of kid that that’s just going to push me more. The more negative feedback he gives me, the more I want to prove to him that I am the point guard that he recruited and that I can lead this team and be the future for this team.

PM: Have you been to a foreign country before?

AM: I have. I went to Mexico last year with my grandparents. It was kinda fun, so I’m pretty excited for this trip.

PM: Your high school teammate Ryan’s going to Boston College, another big school, but he doesn’t get this type of experience in July, before his freshman season even starts. Have you been mentioning this trip to your basketball friends, kind of rubbing it in their faces a little bit?

AM: Yeah, I told everyone we get to go to Brazil this year, and they’re all kinda like, ‘What? What are you talking about?’ I’m looking forward to the trip. It’s gonna be a lot of fun in terms of going out there and playing pro teams and getting some more experience for myself. I think overall we’ll bond more as a team, going outside the country and everything. We’ll be around each other a lot.