Josiah Moore's freshman season at Nebraska took a little longer than he expected to finally get going, but he now finally looks to be settling in and finding his place with the Huskers.
After having to stay back in Norcross, Ga., this summer to finish up some last remaining academic requirements, Moore was the only NU freshman to miss the team's summer conditioning program. So when he got to Lincoln just before the start of the fall semester, he was already playing catch-up in just getting into proper shape.
Because he was so behind in his conditioning, there was talk of Moore potentially redshirting this season and hit the ground running next year. While he took some time to think about it, there was never really a chance the 6-foot-5, 200-pound Moore was going to sit out a whole year.
"They left (the decision to redshirt) up to me," Moore said. "I talked to my mom about it and other people back home who have been supporting me and helping me out, and I just felt like I needed to play… I didn't think it was a bad idea if I did (redshirt), but I just felt I should get the minutes I could (this season)."
Moore's decision has finally started to pay off, as he's coming off his most extensive action as a Husker in last week's wins over Florida Gulf Coast and TCU. After playing a season-high 11 minutes against FGCU, Moore followed with nine quality minutes against TCU, which was arguably Nebraska's most important game of the year thus far.
Head coach Doc Sadler said the biggest reason for Moore's increased role of late has been his ability to get himself into good enough shape to earn his playing time in practice.
"It's unfortunate that freshmen are put in these situations, because all of them want to play immediately and they're not ready. You see it across the country, and they get frustrated. One of the things Jo's has done is he's just continued to compete each and every day, and I think he's going to be a good player for us."
Moore chose Nebraska over the likes of Wichita State, Marquette, Auburn and Alabama-Birmingham primarily because of his relationship with assistant coach Wes Flanigan, who had been recruiting Moore back when he was an assistant at UAB two years ago.
Ending his prep career at Norcross High School with back-to-back Georgia state championships his junior and senior seasons, Sadler said one of the first things he noticed about Moore when he first arrived on campus was his confidence and drive to compete.
"I don't think there's intimidation at all," Sadler said. "I think Jo's always been a confident player. He feels like he belongs. He came from the same high school as (UConn's Jeremy Lamb), and I think they won back-to-back state championships in Georgia. So he's used to winning, and he has that confidence about him."
While playing time has come in small doses for Moore through the first few weeks of the season, he's confident that he'll be able to earn more minutes as the year goes along by continuing to work as hard as he can each day he steps on the practice floor.
"I won't let myself get out of the game," Moore said. "If I'm on the bench, I know my opportunity will come soon. I'm waiting for the opportunity when Doc calls my name. I'm just willing to fight for any kind of playing time right now. That's the reason I didn't take a redshirt. I'll take get anything I can get and try and get ready for next year too."
Around the rim
***Senior center Andre Almeida continues to battle through his recovery from off-season knee surgery, and has made some progress over the past few weeks. Almeida has been able to practice with the team in half-court drills for about a month now, but he's still struggling with getting up and down the court. Sadler said Almeida's only been able to participate in full-court practices about three or four times this season.
"Really in the half-court stuff it's not ever been a problem," Sadler said. "It's when he starts running up and down the court is when it's been giving him problems."
Sadler said there is no set timetable for Almeida's return, but he was hopeful to get him back by mid-January.
"I'd like for him to help us win one game," Sadler said. "Obviously there comes a point where you're not going to jeopardize a whole season, but we're not even close to that."
***Freshman point guard Corey Hilliard also continues to deal with lingering injury problems. Sadler said Hilliard suffered a sports hernia injury earlier this year and had been day-to-day ever since.
Hillard was able to go through non-contact drills in practice on Tuesday, and he wasn't quite as sore as he has been on Wednesday. Sadler said the training staff still didn't know enough about the extent of the injury to determine his status for the rest of the season just yet.
"How bad it is, we don't know yet," Sadler said. "It's my understanding of that situation is really you ever really know until you go in and do surgery, and that's not something we want to do right now. We want to try to get him healthy enough to play this year."
***With finals week wrapping up, Sadler said he didn't expect any unpleasant surprises to come up regarding any academic issues for his players. However, he was quick to knock on wood when he said that.
"As of this morning everything sounds good, but there's two and half more days," Sadler said. "But going into finals we weren't concerned, but obviously there's always the unexpected, so it would be unusual if something didn't happen. But I think we're in good enough shape that it's not going to jeopardize anything."
Sadler then jokingly added: "Now with that, will have an announcement on Saturday."
***Moore said he, Hilliard and fellow freshman David Rivers have already developed a strong bond, which could be a good sign for the future in terms of team chemistry.
"We're all roommates, and we all get along," Moore said. "We're around each other 24/7, and I think it'll pay off in the long run with how close we are. Every time we step on the court we get better, especially next year when we get more playing time. I think it's a huge factor, all of us being close."