published Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Returner Armani Moore a leader for coach Donnie Tyndall's Vols

  • photo
    Rising junior Armani Moore, left, is one of four returning players new coach Donnie Tyndall is inheriting, and the bouncy 6-foot-5 Atlanta-area resident figures to be in line for a larger role with the Vols.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

KNOXVILLE — Armani Moore is one of the few.

One of the four, to be more precise.

Amid a laundry list of changes to Tennessee's basketball program since that two-point loss to Michigan in the Sweet 16 in late March, Moore is one of the few constants for the Volunteers.

The rising junior is one of four returning players new coach Donnie Tyndall is inheriting, and the bouncy 6-foot-5 Atlanta-area resident figures to be in line for a larger role after showing improvement late in his sophomore season.

"It's definitely going to be a rebuilding year," Moore said before one of his Rocky Top League games last month. "I feel like we've got a lot of good pieces to come out and compete. A lot of people probably look down on us like we're young and we've got a lot of unexperienced guys, but I feel like all our guys always come in locked in and ready to go.

"They're very coachable, and most importantly, they've all got some type of talent."

A 16-game starter as a freshman, Moore averaged 3.1 points in 13 minutes last season, but he played less than 15 minutes in just three games from mid-February to the end of the season. He scored eight points in late-season wins against Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. In four NCAA tournament games, Moore scored 14 points in 63 minutes off the bench.

For most of the season, Moore was known more for his emphatic shot-blocking than his offensive game, but he developed from wild to somewhat reliable on his drives to the rim. He shot 56 percent on two-point shots and 26.7 percent on 3s.

Tyndall recruited Moore "real hard" out of Mount Paran Christian School in suburban Atlanta while coaching at Morehead State, and the coach will install an up-and-down pressing system that fits his former target.

"He's just a hard-playing, tough guy," Tyndall said. "I think he's responded well to my staff and myself, and he doesn't fight coaching. When you do challenge him a little bit, or try to push him, he's 100 percent with it. He doesn't resist us in any way, shape or form."

How exactly Moore fits into the big picture, though, remains to be seen.

He plays taller than 6-5 and filled the undersized forward role in four-guard lineups in his first two seasons under Cuonzo Martin, and he's limited as a ball-handler and perimeter shooter.

Tyndall dubbed Moore an "in-between" player, but he likes having an option with such versatility.

"He can certainly play on the wing some," the new coach explained, "but he could also play some mismatch four like we've done everywhere I've ever been and can create some problems for the defense when we have the ball.

"And yet, you can hide a guy like that a little bit the way we play with our press and our matchup zone, where he's not having to go to the other end and guard a 6-foot-10 guy.

"I think he's the type of kid that bottom line wants to be out there, and he doesn't care if he plays the point guard or the center spot. He just wants to help us win games."

Moore said his summer focus is on "knocking down open shots," building confidence in his 3-point accuracy and improving his driving ability.

"I've always been the type of run-and-gun guy since high school and especially AAU," he said. "Really they have no set offense, and it's all about locking your man up and getting out in front of the defense. That's the type of basketball I've played. I feel like I'll fit pretty good in [Tyndall's] system."

With seven of Tennessee's eight newcomers now on campus -- Florida Gulf Coast transfer forward Eric McKnight is still awaiting a specific waiver required for players who are attending their third Division I program and likely won't enroll until August -- Moore also is helping to fill a leadership role with rising senior Josh Richardson.

"Most of all, they've been great leaders," junior college transfer guard Kevin Punter said. "Being that they've been here already, they've been great leaders, showing guys the way to go and pushing guys and talking guys through things.

"I'm a junior college kid, but even with them, they've helped me out a lot, just like the high school kids. They're really helpful and they're great guys."

Moore understands it's part of being one of the old guys.

"It's all about getting up into the new guys," he said, "and showing them how it's done, always being competitive with them and don't give them nothing easy, so when the lights come on they'll know what it already feels like."

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com.

about Patrick Brown...

Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...

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