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Ben Smith

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Photo courtesy of Vladimir Cherry | Southern Metho
Southern Methodist guard Nic Moore is averaging 13.8 points and has 49 3-pointers and 112 assists.

Warsaw grad leading SMU

The kid’s luck is some kind of in. Let’s acknowledge that straight off.

Let’s acknowledge that Nic Moore’s on a busting-Vegas roll, because, to start with, he’s waking up not in our Bible Belt Siberia these days but in Dallas, where the mercury’s supposed to hit 70 degrees this weekend. So he’s got that going for him.

Oh, and, he’s also the guiding hand at point guard for a Southern Methodist basketball team that’s 19-5 heading into tonight’s game at Rutgers.

Oh, and his numbers are 13.8 points per game in 31.8 minutes (No. 1 on the team), and 49 3-pointers (No. 1), and 112 assists (No. 1).

Oh, and, he’s doing all of that for Larry Brown, a coaching legend who’s been on every sideline in America, pro or college, going all the way back to the Carolina Cougars of the ABA.

You want to know just how shiny life is for Moore right now?

Even sitting out last year after transferring from Illinois State was a blessing of sorts for the redshirt sophomore.

“Definitely, just sitting out the year, that’s the biggest transition I had,” Moore said this week in a phone interview. “Actually, though, I felt I was ahead of the game for sitting out. Just doing what coach Brown wanted me to do and the coaching staff, I felt I had a better understanding of things.”

And now, three-quarters of the way through his first season as a Mustang, he says he has an even better understanding. Though he’s been a point guard all his life – first as an Indiana All-Star for Doug Ogle at Warsaw, then at Illinois State – he really never got the position until this year. Not fully, anyway.

“Just knowing how to be a point guard,” he says, when asked where he’s grown the most as a player. “Just running the team at all times, getting everybody involved, and then also looking for my opportunities, too.”

Part of that no doubt stems from SMU’s success as a team, much of which flows from Moore himself. Although Brown still thought last fall he had some distance to go to be a true point, his development at the position has given the Mustangs the one piece they were missing. And off they’ve flown.

Since losing 71-63 at Louisville on Jan. 12, the Mustangs have won eight of nine games by an average of 16.6 points and risen to No. 23 in the AP poll. Last time out, they battered then-No. 7 Cincinnati by 21, preserving their unbeaten record at home.

“Everybody’s working together,” says Moore, who scored 14 points against the Bearcats. “I feel like (our strengths) are coming together when times get hard, and I feel like our defense is pretty good.”

Having Brown on the bench doesn’t hurt, either.

“It’s hard at times, but I just know he has the best interests for me and the way he’s coaching me is going to benefit me later in life,” Moore says of the man who won an NBA title with Detroit in 2004 and an NCAA title at Kansas in 1988, and across 42 years has been a head coach in 10 ABA or NBA cities and three Division I universities. “Sometimes I don’t understand that. But at times I do, when I just sit down and think about it.”

Which is what Brown’s all about, Moore acknowledges.

“He’s a teacher for real,” he says “When somebody messes up he’s going to stop and explain what you did wrong and how to get better. He teaches the game.”

Lucky for Moore. Again.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.