For the last few months, he has bided his time, getting his grades in order, waiting patiently so he can make a much-anticipated return to the basketball court midway through the 2012-13 season.
You may have seen him on the UTEP campus, or at a Miner game, and asked yourself “who is that guy?”
“That guy” is McKenzie Moore, and if the Miners put together a bounce-back year following a 15-17 season, don’t be surprised if he plays a vital role.
UTEP Coach Tim Floyd likes Moore … a lot. He compares him to Daniel Hackett, who averaged 12.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists his final year at USC (2008-09) before playing professionally overseas.
"McKenzie has the ability to shoot it, and he has the ability to get the ball in the lane. He is a pass-first guard who has great length and should be a great defender in addition to being a guy who is going to make other players better,” Floyd said.
He’s also big. At six feet, six inches, Moore should give the UTEP backcourt a dimension it has lacked since Julyan Stone exhausted his eligibility over a year ago.
Moore took the long road to El Paso.
“I didn’t play much in high school until my sophomore or junior year,” he said. “I committed to Saint Mary’s [Calif.]. I had some trouble getting into school, so I went in another direction. I was going to go to Texas, but that didn’t work out either. I had to go to junior college. Coach Floyd and coach [Phil] Johnson gave me a call and said they wanted me here. This is a great program and we’re just trying to bring everything back.”
Moore enrolled at UTEP for the spring semester. He wasn’t able to practice with the team, so he focused on school. Early indications are that he passed his tests with flying colors.
“I just finished up my finals. I think I did pretty well,” he said. “History was kind of bugging me, but if I did good on that I got a 3.5 [grade point average]. El Paso is a calm place. It’s not like California, and that was good for me. I was able to get serious about my studies. I’m just trying to get on the right track.
“The time off from basketball has taught me that if you get good grades and do the right thing, everything will be all right. You won’t have to sit out and watch something that you love to do.”
The Pleasant Hills, Calif. native won’t be eligible to play for the Miners until December. In the meantime, he’s honing his skills, continuing to develop an all-around game.
“I just make people around me better,” Moore said of his skill set. “I pass the ball and see the floor well. I get people good shots. Right now I’m working on my post game, so I can score more efficiently and consistently.”
Moore credits Phil Handy, player development coach for the L.A. Lakers, as the man most responsible for getting him where he is today.
“He has been in my life and helped me through everything, whether it be basketball or just becoming a good person,” he said. “He is a good guy and he’s taken good care of me. He has helped me with my ball handling and has taught me how to approach the game mentally, how to be a good all-around player and go hard every play. Sometimes you miss a shot, but you can’t lag on defense. You have to give it all you’ve got.”
That kind of never-say-die attitude figures to serve the Miners well in 2012-13.
“We’ve got the pieces in place and it’s on us now,” he said. “We’ve got everything we need. We just have to get it rolling. We’ve got to win. Of course we want to take the conference and go far in the tournament.
“Tell everybody we’re going to bring 1966 back.”