The 2011-12 season was a nightmare for Malcolm Moore.
He arrived at UTEP, feeling good about himself after earning a scholarship out of Tyler [Texas] Junior College. His weight ballooned to 255 pounds. He struggled to get acclimated to the Division I level, playing in seven games and averaging 4.4 points and 3.0 rebounds. He blew out his knee at practice in mid-December and began the grueling 8-12 month road to recovery.
As it turns out, the 2011-12 season may have been the best thing that’s ever happened to Malcolm Moore.
“It was probably one of the lowest points of my life, but it made me grow up as a person and taught me not to take advantage of the game,” he said. “I feel like I didn’t come out last year like I usually come out. I felt like something was owed to me.”
Moore averaged 16.3 points and 7.5 rebounds as a sophomore at Tyler JC, garnering third team All-American honors. In celebrating his success, he may have forgotten about the hard work that he put in to get to that point.
“I feel like I didn’t play my best basketball last year,” he said. “I was overweight. I came in behind a lot of people, and it was harder for me because I had to get back in shape.”
Despite playing almost 25 pounds above his usual weight, Moore showed flashes of his former self. He made 4-of-5 shots and scored eight points against UT San Antonio. He scored nine points in a start at Oregon, and six points off the bench in one of the Miners’ bigger wins of the year, a 73-69 conquest of I-10 rival NM State.
Then on Dec. 16, two days after pulling down four rebounds at UNLV, Moore crumpled to the floor in practice.
It looked bad, but he held out hope that he would be making a quick return to the lineup.
“Initially I thought I would be all right, that I would be able to brush it off,” he said. “Then they told me it was an ACL.
“Obviously it hurt me. This is a game that I love, and it’s hard to watch everybody.”
Almost six months later, Moore still can’t do any running, but he has been doing all he can to assure that he starts the 2012-13 campaign in tip-top shape.
“I started sneaking into the gym by myself once my knee was sturdy,” he said. “You can kind of feel when you’re all right. I’m not running or sprinting or jumping, but I’m lifting weights and working on my shot.
“I’ll probably be able to start running this summer. By late August or early September, I should be able to start playing with the guys.”
That would appear to put Moore on track to being at full strength for the first day of practice in mid-October, but he cautioned against expecting too much too soon.
“Our trainer told me that these injuries can kind of linger for a little bit,” he said. “You can start playing at eight or nine months, but it really takes 12 for you to feel really good. I can do a little here and there right now. I feel like I’ll be all right by the time October or November comes around.”
Moore has cut his weight down to 226 pounds during what he has termed a “rebuilding period.”
“I have been watching my eating and doing a lot of lifting on my own,” he said. “I’ve never sat out before. Now I feel like I need to not only get back to where I was before, but excel at this level too. I stayed here so I can do everything I can to get ahead.”
Moore is one of just three Miners sticking around until summer school starts on June 11. The others are sophomore guard McKenzie Moore (no relation) and El Paso native Tyler Tafoya.
When Moore does return to the court, it will be with a vengeance.
“I’m ready to see what I can do with this body,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to this year. I’ve never been more excited to play a game than I am right now.”
He’s also excited to carve out his niche in what could be a much-improved Miner squad.
“We’ve got some good players coming in, and it’s going to bring up the level of competition,” he said. “It’s exactly what we need. Everybody is going to have to work for a spot, and I know I’m ready to work.
“I’m just ready to get back to playing the way I know I can play, and how other people know I can play. I’m excited to see what I can do when I put everything into basketball. I love the game more now than I ever have.”