College basketball has not worked out the way Erica Moore expected.
Injuries, transfers — from Purdue to Wright State and from Wright State to New Mexico — and a general run of bad luck have transformed Moore from can’t-miss prospect to question mark over the past few years.
She spent last season at UNM as a redshirt, sitting at the end of the bench for home games, sporting street clothes, a walking boot and sometimes requiring crutches to get up and down the Pit ramp.
After transferring to UNM from Purdue, she suffered a torn right Achilles tendon on the second day of summer practice. From a basketball perspective, Moore calls 2016-17 a year to forget.
“I didn’t have much patience with being out for so long,” she said. “After a couple months it starts to twist your mind a little bit.”
Moore realized she couldn’t play for the Lobos last season under NCAA transfer rules, but she figured on practicing regularly and getting comfortable with Bradbury’s system and her new Lobo teammates. Instead it was a year of rehab and watching other people play, both of which have become all-too familiar to Moore of late.
She sat out most of her senior high school season with a knee injury, then played sparingly in 1½ seasons at Purdue. Moore transferred to Wright State midway through the 2015-16 season, then followed Bradbury to UNM last summer.
Her last official basketball game was on Dec. 28, 2015.
“It’s been a long time,” said Moore, who will be a junior next season. “I honestly cannot wait to get back on the floor and contribute.”
Things took a positive turn last week when Moore was fully cleared to resume practice activities. She’s since been battling UNM assistant coach Bill Ferrara in individual post drills.
Early returns are encouraging, but Moore knows she still has considerable work to do before full team practices begin in the fall.
“I’d say I’m on pace,” she said, “but I want to be dominant inside and be the best post player I can be. I plan to be all the way back for the start of the season and be a starter.”
Bradbury has no trouble envisioning Moore dominating the paint. Not too long ago she was a highly recruited prep post, leading Indiana’s Mount Vernon-Fortville to a state title while averaging 17.8 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.
Strong and mobile with a soft shooting touch, the 6-foot-2 daughter of former Super Bowl-winning lineman Eric Moore (1990 New York Giants) had college programs lining up for her services.
“She could have gone anywhere in the country,” said Bradbury, who watched Moore play on several occasions while he was coaching at Wright State.
Moore opted to stay close to home at Purdue but never really meshed with Boilermakers coach Sharon Versyp. Moore appeared in 11 games as a freshman and five as a sophomore before transferring, averaging 3.6 minutes and 1.4 points per game.
“I wanted to be where I could contribute,” Moore said. “I felt like a different coaching style would help, and when I first went to Wright State I liked how things worked. I wanted to play for (Bradbury).”
Had she stayed at Wright State, Moore would have been eligible to play at last season’s semester break. Instead, she chose to follow Bradbury to New Mexico — a school and state she knew little about.
“I’d never paid any mind to New Mexico,” she said with a smile, “but now that I’m here I like it. The altitude down here is really high, though. My first couple of sprints I almost died.”
With her Achilles tendon back intact and a year of acclimating to New Mexico behind her, Moore is eager to start proving herself to Lobo fans. Getting a small taste of the Pit atmosphere helped Moore push hard through rehab, she said.
“It was motivation,” she said. “It makes you excited to get on the court and bring something. My goal is to bring aggression, rebounding and scoring, which I know I can do when I’m healthy.”
Bradbury has high expectations for Moore, who will be one of just two posts on his 2017-18 roster. The other, rising junior Jaisa Nunn, is recovering from knee surgery.
“I want 40 minutes a game between Erica and Jaisa,” Bradbury said, “and I don’t care how the minutes break down. Injuries have kind of crushed Erica the past few years, but I’ve seen what she can do and her ceiling is really high. If she keeps working and progressing, we’ll have something with Erica Moore.”