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Las Vegas • Jalen Moore went down shooting. The local kid with the distinctive afro and deep Utah State roots finished his collegiate career with his highest-scoring game in a USU uniform.
Moore, a 6-foot-9 small forward, scored a game-high and career-high 27 points on 9-for-17 shooting from the field (4 for 7 on 3-pointers) to go along with 5 for 6 from the free-throw line. A former high school standout at Sky View who grew up in North Logan, Moore showed his athleticism and knack for scoring in the Aggies' 83-69 loss to top-seeded Nevada on Thursday in the Mountain West Conference tournament.
After declaring for the NBA draft last season in order to get feedback from professional coaches and front office personnel, Moore stayed in Logan for his senior season. This winter, he led the Aggies in scoring (17 points per game) and rebounding (5.5 per game) for the third consecutive season.
"It's been a blessing to play with all the players I've played with, the coaches I've played for," Moore said. "It's just been a fun run, getting better every year, playing with different players, playing in this conference is fun, playing against good teams. Playing against good competition every night out.
"It was fun to get in the weight room from high school and just get bigger, stronger, getting better every day. Those are the things I enjoyed. So I appreciate the coaches giving me the opportunity to play here, and just playing with all the different teammates has been fun. And there's nothing like college basketball, so it's been a really fun four years of my life."
The son of Aggies Hall of Fame basketball player, Jimmy Moore, Jalen Moore started his 97th career game on Thursday. That's the ninth-most in school history. He ranks ninth on the program's all-time scoring list with 1,645 points. He also finished with 654 rebounds, two more than his father had in three varsity seasons, and moved into 16th place on the program's all-time list.
Moore, a second-team all-conference selection as well as an all-district selection by the United States Basketball Writer's Association, scored in what coach Tim Duryea likes to refer to as all three levels 3-point, mid-range and at rim including a drive where he started at the 3-point line, went past a defender into the lane and around another mid-air for a loud two-handed dunk.
"He has been a phenomenal representative of our program in the airport, on the airplane, in a restaurant," Duryea said. "People compliment him, us, all the time, regarding the kind of representative he is for Utah State, and that doesn't even say anything about scoring a basket or the kind of player he is. We can all see that. He really is what college basketball is supposed to be about. Great kid. Great student. Great player. You want to coach about 10 of those."
Nevada sophomore forward Cameron Oliver, who was voted by the Mountain West media as the conference's defensive player of the year and selected to the all-defensive team by the conference head coaches, likened Moore to NBA All-Star Kevin Durant because of his athleticism and versatility.
Nevada head coach Eric Musselman, who has had seven professional (two in NBA) head-coaching stints, said Moore has the ability to have success professionally if he can transition exclusively to small forward.
"He's a hard cover," Musselman said. "Obviously at the collegiate level he plays the four and the three. And his position at the next level, whether it be NBA, D-League or Europe, will be at the 3 spot. He possesses a unique skill set because he can post up, play with his back to the basket. He can shoot the three ball. And he can take guys off the bounce. And he's got great length.
"So he's probably a guy that's going to end up going to some place like Portsmouth [for the NBA pre-draft camp], and will have to prove himself. But he is a guy that at the collegiate level is a really, really, really tough cover. And it's hard to play at the next level, but he certainly has the ability if things fall into place for him, the right situation, right time and all those type of things."