Logan • On a sunny, warm day on the Utah State University campus, Jalen Moore roams inside a small weight room tucked away in the Wayne Estes Center with rap music accompanying the sounds of grunts and metal clanging against metal.
College basketball is over for the North Logan resident and former Sky View High School star, but the 6-foot-9, 222-pound Moore is not finished with either college or basketball. He's on pace to graduate with his degree in exercise science and a business minor in May. While he's chugging toward that finish line, he's also positioning himself for a professional basketball career.
This week represents the first litmus test in Moore's quest to play professionally. He leaves Wednesday to travel to Virginia to play alongside and against 64 of the top seniors in the nation such as UCLA's Bryce Alford, Arizona's Kadeem Allen, Wisconsin's Bronson Koenig and Weber State's Jeremy Senglin in the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament. Games begin Wednesday night and continue through Saturday. The players will be on display for NBA teams, and the top performers will get invited to the NBA Scouting Combine.
"I'm just going in there to prove that I can play at the next level," Moore said. "Obviously, coming from a smaller school than some guys that are going to be there, we don't get as many looks — because we're not on national television — as some guys that'll be there. I just need to go in with a mindset that I can play with anybody. I'm as good as these guys. ... Everyone is going to play the same amount of time so I've got to do something to make myself try to stand out."
Moore's scoring numbers remained steady but not gaudy the past three seasons — between 15.2 and 17.0 points per game. He's been remarkably efficient, having never averaged more than 12.5 shots per game for a season, and has scored inside, outside and from the midrange. This past season, he ranked among the Mountain West leaders in shooting percentage (48 percent, fourth) and 3-point shooting percentage (42.6 percent, second). He projects as a small forward in NBA.
"Really, it's crazy," Moore said of the past two months. "Obviously, I'm three classes away from graduating so I've got to graduate. But then right there at my fingertips is a chance to play professional basketball. I'm kind of just trying to do both of them as well as I can. … I don't really get much time to rest. I'm usually playing basketball, conditioning, working out. I'm usually doing something — eating and then studying."
Thanks to the rule change that allowed Moore to declare for the NBA draft last spring, work out for teams and still return to college (he did not sign with an agent last year), he received a virtual cheat sheet on what questions evaluators have about his game. The primary critiques were to get stronger and maintain the arc on his jump shot from NBA 3-point range.
Moore believes his work last offseason in the weight room showed in his ability to score in the post and finish at the rim in traffic. Not known as an explosive player, he produced several highlight-reel dunks over defenders during his senior season.
On days he stays in Logan, Moore's schedule usually includes a big breakfast (one of four to five meals per day), going to class in the morning, an hour weightlifting session, and a basketball workout (spot-up shooting, ball handling, scoring coming off of screens and conditioning) with the assistance of either his brother, Grayson, their father, or a friend.
Two days per week, usually Monday and Friday, he heads to Highland after morning class and meets up with a trainer by 1 p.m. to do a strength workout followed by an on-court training session. On Wednesdays after class, he typically does a basketball workout with a trainer in Farmington.
"What we're really focusing on right now is what his workouts will be like when he gets invites to [NBA] workouts," trainer Tanner Lind said. "We try to simulate those situations that will be in pre-draft workouts. The last couple weeks we've been focused on a lot of repetition for Portsmouth, make sure he's shooting well in a good rhythm, in shape, and getting game-specific shots. Other times we'll work on skill stuff, we'll find opportunities to work on areas of improvement."
Lind, a former USU student assistant (2002-2005) and later a high school basketball coach in Montana, became a full-time basketball trainer in 2009 and has served as the head trainer for Lehi-based Lace 'Em Up Basketball for more than three years.
Former USU players Jaycee Carroll and Spencer Butterfield, former Utah forward Jordan Loveridge and current Brooklyn Nets center Justin Hamilton are among the players who regularly train with Lace 'Em Up. Carroll, Butterfield and Loveridge all currently play professionally oversees.
"My goal is for him to play well, keep learning, having a high IQ," Lind said. "I'd love for him to get a chance at the NBA, but I think he'll go as far as he can. I think he should have a shot at the NBA, just his body size and stuff like that, but you never know. I just want him to play well."
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