Lurking somewhere in the background is Jentry Moore. Out of the limelight and far from center stage, he goes about his work.
Moore prefers it this way.
There has been plenty of praise heaped on members of the Tustin High School basketball team, which plays Danville San Ramon Valley on Saturday in the Division II State championship game.
The school has gone gaga over the Tillers. The community has done everything short of yellow ribbons to show its support. One Tustinite had the team over to his restaurant for dinner this week.
With all this going on, Moore has done his best to remain anonymous.
“It’s a lot more fun this way,” said Moore, a junior forward. “There’s a lot less pressure. I just go out, work hard and, hopefully, help the team win.”
That blue collar approach has been successful. A starter since midway through last season, Moore fills a vital role for the Tillers, even if that role isn’t clearly defined.
He plays a little defense, gets a few assists and has even scored a point or two for the Tillers. All of which he does with as little fanfare as possible.
“He’s only a junior; I guess that’s the reason he gets overlooked sometimes,” Tustin Coach Tom McCluskey said. “But if we lost Jentry, we’d be in serious trouble.”
McCluskey has been known to exaggerate a tad here and there, but in this case he’s not far off. The versatile Moore would be hard to replace.
He’s consistent in every phase of the game.
* Moore scored 17 points against Millikan in the Tournament of Champions.
* He had five assists and five rebounds against Riverside J.W. North in the Southern Section Division II-AA championship game.
* He had six steals against Escondido San Pasqual in the Southern California Regional semifinals.
“Jentry just seems to fit in wherever we need him,” said guard David Beilstein.
Moore has created his niche through hard work.
He began last season on the junior varsity and was the team’s leading scorer through the first month. However, when forward Jason Moore went down with a knee injury, he was called up to the varsity.
The Tillers already had players who could score, so Moore concentrated on other aspects of the game. He would spend hours after practice working on his ballhandling and passing.
He also improved his defense by guarding teammate Thomas Clayton in one-on-one games.
“I wanted to start, and the best way was to do things besides scoring points,” Moore said. “I wanted to show Coach that I could D-up guys. I became a defensive fanatic.”
Moore became so good at it that McCluskey moved him into the starting lineup at the beginning of Sea View League play. He’s been there ever since.
This season, Moore matured physically, which has helped his defensive abilities. He has a gangly 6-foot-2 frame, long arms, and is adept at deflecting passes.
Moore is quick enough to defend guards and jumps well enough to go against forwards.
“I go in with the attitude that I can stop whoever I’m defending,” Moore said. “He can’t take me to the hole and he can’t shoot over me.”
Confidence like that is hard to beat.
“Next season, when he gets a little bigger, people are going to find it even harder to score on Jentry,” McCluskey said. “He’s going to be fun to watch.”
Moore has also shown more confidence on the offensive end in recent weeks. After averaging only seven points per game during the regular season, he has averaged 10 during the playoffs.
But it’s not how many points he scores, it’s when he scores them.
“I don’t think Jentry has ever hit a game-winning shot for us, like in the final seconds, but it seems all his baskets are huge,” McCluskey said.
Against Muir in the Southern Section Division II-AA playoffs, Moore scored all 10 of his points in the second half. The Tillers, down, 38-32, at halftime, went on to win, 71-57.
Last Saturday in the Regional final against Artesia, Moore was again shut out at halftime and then scored 10 in the second half. He scored the Tillers’ first four points in the third quarter and Tustin went on to win, 51-36.
“I was a little scared to shoot, but Coach has been telling me to keep putting it up,” Moore said. “Still, I don’t try to overdo it. I just want to be a team player.”