Context is everything in high school sports.
Where a game was played, if there were injuries, weather, etc. There are a million different things that individually can impact a game or even a series of games. The same holds true concerning players.
Moving from Klamath Falls to Salem before sophomore year, entering a basketball program going through a coaching change, and going from a school of 50 to one of 225. Going from QB in 8 man football to learning 11, from playing varsity in basketball to a bench player. Context is everything, and it’s no different when James Moore is the topic of conversation.
James Moore is a unicorn on the floor. He can shoot, pass, handle the ball, play defense, is coachable, and has invaluable leadership traits. Moore comes from a basketball family, not only being the son of a coach, or the nephew of OSAA basketball legend Sean Coste, but also the grandson of former Blanchet and Alsea coach Bill Coste, who amassed a 332-104 record as a head coach in boys and girls basketball. “Basketball is a way of life for me,” Moore said, “I grew up around basketball. When I was ten months old, the first steps I picked up a ball, ‘ball’ was my first word, and shot it in my little mini hoop”.
Moore walked into a situation at Blanchet, where mens sports were headed at different trajectories from one another. Football had just gone to the semifinals and was a quarter away from the championship game. Head coach Justin Hubbard was headed into his 6th season, and the stage seemed set for a Blanchet football dynasty. Basketball, on the other hand, had a new head man. Max Goodman was headed into his first year as head coach, taking over a program that had been knocking on the door of winning a state championship since the late 2000s, but could never get over the hump and seemed to be in the opening stages of a backward roll. Baseball had been a playoff team most of the previous decade, but could never get out of the first round and had just logged their worst win-loss record since 2011.
To put it plainly, Blanchet was a turning point when Moore got to Blanchet. Simultaneously on the cusp of the mid-2010s like Dayton powerhouse like status, where every major athletic program was at the forefront of the state championship picture, while also on the cusp of obscurity. Blanchet, as an athletic program was one piece from breaking through, while simultaneously one piece from falling apart. Then, news came in the spring that not just rocked Blanchet, but sent shockwaves throughout the entire state.
RJ Veliz, one of 3A’s best quarterbacks, basketball players, and overall athletes, was leaving Blanchet.
Moore would now no longer be the ‘future Robin to RJ’s Batman’ for Blanchet, he was now Batman way ahead of schedule.
James’ junior year of football was a feeling out process. “In 2018, when we were winless, he tried to take a lot of it on his shoulders and do a little too much,” Blanchet coach Justin Hubbard Said. An 0-9 campaign in football lead to rumors of more Blanchet athletes leaving and coaches resigning, including Justin Hubbard. Basketball was more of the same to start. An 0-8 open to the season lead to Blanchet parents calling for Max Goodman to be fired, only made worse by a 49-88 loss to resurgent 4A Woodburn, lead by former Cavs RJ Veliz and Diego Torres. A plea from coach Goodman after the game struck a chord with Moore. “You never like to hear stuff like that [rumors about a potential coaching change], it more moves the blame on the team itself because we know how hard he works behind the scenes, we know what he does, and the fact that we weren’t putting it together because of our egos was pretty pathetic. We had a team meeting, talked it out, pulled out the win at Stayton, and we were on our way after that” Moore said. Blanchet would go 10-8 in their next 18, and Max Goodman would end up in a three-way tie for PacWest coach of the year.
Some call James Moore’s style of play on the floor, selfish. They see the deep 3’s, they see the ‘forced’ shots in the key, they see the sometimes slow pace he goes up and down the floor and question his energy, killer instinct, and passion for the game. Looks, as the saying goes, can be very deceiving, and never tell the full story.
Concerning him jogging, “My conditioning can always get better, but it’s never at the point where I can fully sprint for 32 minutes in a game. At the same time, a lot of teams will ¾ press us, and sometimes I’m at the back of that press so I want to stay back there as an outlet. So sometimes I’m coasting down the floor because for example the ball is advanced and I’m staying back for defense, like against Yamhill [YC] they pressed us a lot, so I had to stay back in case there was a quick change of possession, and I needed to be on defense.” By your senior year, you’re the product of the environment you’ve been brought up in. The desperation and confusion of Moore’s junior season made him take the reigns, and ultimately Blanchet ran through him not because Max Goodman prefers what might be perceived by others as “hero ball” or “AAU iso stuff,” but because for Blanchet to win the ball had to be in their best players hands. For the Cavs to win consistently, James Moore would have to step up as a leader and player. As a junior, he did, which was invaluable to coach Goodman: “his sophomore year was the year we got 3rd in state, skill-wise he was every bit there but physically not quite there yet. We had a good team, he got in there and definitely contributed. Last year was a rebuilding year, handed the reigns to him, he was just phenomenal, a first-team kid, took a step up no doubt”.
Moore’s senior year of football held the same pattern. Despite the barriers, Blanchet found themselves winning 3 games in 2019, and were not far off from winning 5. “This last season is when he grew the most in his leadership role and became a very good leader for us in practice and games, I was even able to have the trust to send him out there and run a hurry-up at times and let him call the plays at the line of scrimmage, which shows his growth over the years” football coach Justin Hubbard said.
A 7-18 final record isn’t something typically heralded in basketball, but context is critical. Context is always criticall. A roster already depleted from the graduation and the exodus of 2017 was once again thinned going into this season, as the Cavs lost 4 key rotation seniors to graduation. Blanchet, in this way, was very similar to Amity, a lack of varsity experience surrounding a first-team all-state player. Despite this, Blanchet was able to win seven games, and come within 6 of beating an almost entirely healthy SC squad, 12 against Dayton, 4 against YC, 2 against Dayton, 9 against SA (in which they had a second-half lead), and at the end coming within 5 points of beating YC on the road. Those scores with the circumstances surrounding them highlight not just James Moore’s talent, but leadership as well.
Baseball will start soon, and with it, one last go around for James as a Cavalier. But before that, the all-state teams will be released for basketball. On it will be two of the three players we thought initially would be in the ‘Player of the Year’ conversation (Josh Wart and George Sadi), but beyond that, it is an open question as to who will get the other three spots. Tre Foster at St. Mary’s had made a strong case in recent weeks, as has Nyssa’s Pedro Chaves. SC’s Koby Williamson has a shot, as do many other top-notch players who will find their way to Coos Bay. But why not James Moore? The talent is there, the stats are there, the testimonials from PacWest coaches are certainly there. Blanchet will not be making Coos Bay this year, or the playoffs at all, but is that a legitimate excuse to keep one of the top individual talents in the state from being recognized as such? Absolutely not.
There’s a large number of people that believe the MVP award in the NBA and NFL consistently go to the best player or the breakout player of that season, not the most valuable player as the award’s name would suggest. One could make the argument that James Moore is the MVP of 3A basketball. The evidence used for proponents of this view about the MVP award uses Lamar Jackson as an example. Take Jackson off the Baltimore Ravens. How far do they go? A reasonable estimate could be in the range of 11 to 12 wins, considering the AFC North’s general lack of competition this year. Is Lamar Jackson truly the MVP if his presence would only net the Ravens two more wins? Take Russell Wilson off the Seahawks, a reasonable win estimate is around 5 or 6, meaning Russel Wilson’s worth to the Seahawks is in the realm of 4 to 5 wins. Granted, this example is subject not only to one’s opinion, but also the fact that NFL QB is like no other position in all of sports.
Nonetheless, the point remains. Is there truly a more VALUABLE player in all of 3A? The argument could be made that no, there isn’t. If there’s a case to be made that someone, because of their innate talent and positive leadership traits, is in the conversation as the most valuable player in the state, how can they not also be in the conversation for first-team all-state?
Coach Max Goodman on that topic, “It’s hard for a kid to overcome that kinda stuff [not making state tournament], but if anybody could it could be him and it should be him. You look at the numbers and use that argument that ‘well our teams not that good, he has to do everything,’ what I say to people is ‘ya that’s the case, but against a lot of these teams he’s the main thing other teams game plan for to try and take away you know you gotta faceguard or box-and-one and he’s still putting up these numbers. He doesn’t ask for any recognition, but he deserves it”.
Coach Goodman references the numbers. Here are just a few:
28.1ppg/10.4rbpg/4.7apg in PacWest play
7 30+ point games (6 in PacWest play)
36ppg/16.5rbpg/5.5apg in league playoffs
624 points in 2019-20, one of only 92 players in the history of 4A-1A to score over 600
All time single season scorer at Blanchet at 25ppg
All time single game scoring leader at Blanchet with 49 against SA this season
Scored in double figures in every single game this season
27th all time in ppg in a season (4A-1A)
1,303 career points, 124th all time 4A-1A, 228th all time overall
That’s basketball, though. Anyone who has been themselves, or involved in the life of someone who has been, a student-athlete knows that you’re never just doing one thing. In James Moore’s case, not only is he a three-sport athlete, but he also juggles being the student body president and NHS president. “I’m super active; this school helped me branch out. I am in multiple clubs and enjoy every second of it.” To juggle all that, while at the same time maintaining a 4.11 GPA…James Moore is in a class of his own.
James Moore will be on the court again, first as a collegiate player, then on the sidelines. “I’m going to play basketball [in college]. No offers, but I have interest from Linfield, George Fox, Western Oregon, Warner Pacific, Pacific Lutheran, Pacific, all the D3’s around here. I plan to major in history and become a history teacher and coach. D1 is always the goal, playing pro is always the dream even if it’s overseas or whatever. If that doesn’t happen, I’m going to teach and coach, but I’m going to do that anyway once the basketball thing is over.”
The PacWest tournament has its final games this Saturday at Central high school in Independence. James Moore will not be on the floor, but his presence will be felt.
If there’s one thing I learned doing interviews and research for this piece, it’s that wherever life takes James Moore, he’ll be successful. People of his character are seldom found in modern society.
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