UNIONDALE, N.Y. — It started as a dream and it turned into reality for one Long Island kid.
Meet J.J. Moore, a 26-year-old aspiring NBA player from Brentwood who toild overseas and currently plays for the hometown Long Island Nets. J.J.’s story is inspiring to any hoopers out there with a dream to make it no matter how many times you want to give up.
Moore was a stand-out player at South Kent Prep in Connecticut and then Brentwood High School in Long Island. He went on to play at Pittsburgh before transferring to Rutgers. After missing out on the draft, he was invited to a few NBA camps. He never made it, most recently with the Nets where he was cut after a summer invite.
Just a few months later, J.J. Moore and 149 other ballers suited up for a tryout for the Long Island Nets at LIU Post. Moore showed his versatility as a 6’6” guard/forward and made the final cut. In fact, he was the only one of 150 to make it. He eventually became a key role player for the L.I. Nets after a couple of months with the team.
“I trained my butt off and went in there with confidence,” Moore told NetsDaily at the Long Island Nets fanfest at the New Coliseum “I didn’t have my head down saying, ‘Man, I don’t know’. I went in there and gave it my all. No weakness. No backing down. I just kept going.”
Moore was no strange face to folks with the Nets. Aside from the camp invite, he and Long Island Nets coach Ronald Nored used to play each other when Nored was at Butler and Moore was at Pitt.
“I can’t say enough good things about J.J.,” L.I. Nets coach Ronald Nored said. “For him to not only get called back to our team – I think we did that after Yogi [Ferrell] got called up the first time – for him to come back to our team and not only just be a part of the team, but contribute and improve the way he did just speaks volume for the work he put in and the kind of guy that he is.”
Quickly, his identity was formed… or finally recognized. Throughout the season, Moore would always be up in the huddle cheering his teammates on no matter the circumstances.
He’s a team guy with character, and nothing makes him more proud than to wear Long Island on his chest.
“I’m reppin’ my city, man, just to have Long Island on my shirt, growing up in Long Island and playing ball in Long Island this is a blessing and it pushes me even more because now I’m playing for my city. I can show people and play for the people that really had my back growing up.”
He never got the hype that he deserved. He was always Underrated. in fact, it said so on his jersey. I would know. J.J. and I played AAU together for Team Underrated based in Wyandanch. We trained together at Jerry Powell, too. Although he’s a couple of years older than me, we were always in the same gym with the same coaches and the same peers. Sometimes I even played up a few years and watched him go to work.
The consensus amongst basketball folks from the boroughs is that kids from Long Island are soft. Most of our tournaments were on the blacktop in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx. But we sure as hell weren’t soft.
“It’s crazy because a lot of them don’t think of us as much. They just say, ‘oh you from Long Island. You soft! Like come on man you don’t know nothing.’”
Long Island has a few current hometown guys riding the NBA circuit, perhaps none betterb known than 24-year-old standout Tobias Harris. Once a rival, J.J. considers Tobias one of his inspirations, just as he is to many other kids from Long Island.
“Tobias [Harris] is actually one of my closest friends. I talk to him damn near every week. Even when I was in the D-League he’d hit me up asking how was the game and everything. When I was just in Israel he hit me up, ‘Yo when you getting home ‘cause we gotta get it right’ and we were right in the gym when I was back.
“He pushes me because he wants me to be in the NBA. Growing up he was my rival because we were up there neck-and-neck with one another. It felt good having somebody at the higher level still stick with somebody that’s not up to his level yet. At the same time it’s just good to have somebody – anybody- that wants you to do well.”
As J.J., Tobias, Danny Green and even Nets coach Kenny Atkinson can tell you: Long Island basketball is growing and the Long Island Nets will play a vital part in kids growing up and watching the game being played the right way. The Coliseum is now the mecca of professional basketball on Long Island. The Island Garden is the mecca of AAU ball on Long Island. The two are less than 10 minutes away from each other.
You can ask many that have played the game: it’s those little AAU teams that give you the opportunity to showcase your skill and grow as a player AND person.
“My biggest one was a little little team out of Longwood. We were the Long Island Defenders. Darion Davis was my point guard. It’s funny because we talked about Tobias and Longwood played against Tobias. His whole squad and then me and Darion. We always had that one goal: keep going and keep succeeding in life. People don’t realize but those little AAU teams are the ones that get you going and put you on a mission. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be where I’m at. Then I ended up on Team Underrated and some bigger teams and the rest is history.”
Growing up and playing basketball in Long Island can teach you invaluable lessons. When all eyes are on you and folks are calling you “soft”, that’ll motivate you enough to become a tougher and better basketball player. It also teaches you to be humble and understand where you’re from and how that plays a part in who you are.
For J.J. Moore, his journey has made him humble and grateful to be where he’s at, playing for his city and the people that always pulled for him and now look up to him. The Nets -- and people with good judgement -- call it character.
Just ask Ronald Nored. The player he plucked from tryouts is now the model for his team.
“J.J. is who we want to be. We want guys like that,” Nored said. “Guys that are willing to get outside and help other people. Not only that, but work hard and be the best they can be.”
On Long Island.