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Good-natured center caps career at Eastern

Brandon Moore dedicated himself to keeping in shape during the summer by staying on campus.  (Jesse Tinsley)
Brandon Moore dedicated himself to keeping in shape during the summer by staying on campus. (Jesse Tinsley)

As a bald, bearded, back-to-the-basket beast on Eastern Washington University’s men’s basketball team, Brandon Moore ends up answering countless questions about his twin sister.

“I get that all the time,” the Eagles’ 6-foot-9, 250-pound senior center said. “People are like, ‘Man, what’s your sister look like? Is she bald, too?’ ”

Moore often responds by producing a picture of his 6-foot beardless twin Jocelyn, who was a standout center at the University of Great Falls, where she led her team in scoring and rebounding as a senior last winter.

The universal reaction?

“Everybody always says, ‘Wow! She’s really cute. What happened to you?’ ”

Moore shrugs off such good-natured ribbing with a shrug and a playful smile – much like he does life, in general.

“I guess I’m always smiling, because I’m always having so much fun,” he said.

Too much fun, in some cases, he said.

During his first four years at Eastern, which included a redshirt season in 2005-06, Moore basically took his summers off, returning to his home in Graham, Wash., to hang out with his friends and family, which includes 18-year-old twin sisters, Grace and Brianna.

But last summer, faced with the reality of playing his final season of college basketball – a season that starts officially Saturday, when the Eagles host Portland in a non-conference game at 1:05 p.m. at Reese Court – Moore stayed in Cheney and made the most of his access to the weight room, while working out regularly with his teammates.

“He stayed here on campus and worked his butt off,” Eagles head coach Kirk Earlywine said of Moore. “He spent a lot of time in the gym and a lot of time working on his body, and it’s showed, because that hasn’t always been the case in the past for Brandon over the summer.”

Moore, when told of Earlywine’s comment, claimed it was a fair assessment of his previous work ethic – or lack thereof.

“Coach hasn’t been real happy with me the last couple of summers, because I tend to go home,” he said. “And going home and working out isn’t the same as staying here with the team and working out all summer. It’s just harder to do it at home by yourself.

“It’s always nice to go home and see your family, I know, and that’s one of the reasons I did it before. But, yeah, if I’d have stayed here the past couple of summers, I’d probably be a lot a further along strength-wise and skill-wise than I am.”

Moore has managed to put together a solid career at Eastern, where he has lettered three times and improved his scoring and rebounding numbers each year.

As a junior last winter, the former first-team all-stater at Bethel High School averaged 11.2 points and a team-high 6.8 rebounds as the Eagles finished 12-18 in their second season under Earlywine and missed qualifying for Big Sky Conference Tournament for the third consecutive year after going 6-10 in conference play.

His progress was slowed earlier this fall when he underwent minor surgery to remove a bone that had never fused properly from his foot. But he healed much quicker than anticipated and played 27 minutes in last Saturday’s 67-58 exhibition win over Montana State-Billings, posting a 16-point, 11-rebound double-double.

“That’s more credit to him,” Earlywine said of Moore’s impressive effort, which also included a block and a steal.

“Even after the surgery, he spent an extraordinary amount of time with our strength coach and Coach (Jamie) Matthews doing every activity under the sun that didn’t involve your legs or feet.

“Again, he worked his ass off and tried to minimize the amount of rust – which he obviously did.”

Moore, who received scholarship offers from Boise State, Portland, Portland State and several other Big Sky schools, opted for Eastern because of its proximity to his home – and his mother, Linda, whom he credits with keeping him in line and focused on becoming the best student athlete he can be.

“Cheney was the perfect place for me, because it was close enough where my mom can come and watch me play, but far enough away that she can’t just show up unannounced,” he said. “She’s really the main reason I strive to do so well, because you don’t want to upset Mom.

“Nobody wants that wrath.”

Come spring, Moore plans to make his mother prouder by graduating with a degree in construction management. After that he would like to continue playing basketball professionally overseas.

“But if that doesn’t work out, I’ll still have my degree in something I can actually use to get a good-paying job,” Moore said.

In the meantime, though, he will do whatever he can to help Eastern earn that coveted Big Sky Tournament berth that has been so elusive in recent years.

“That’s been my biggest disappointment here so far – not getting to the tournament,” said Moore, who was redshirting when the Eagles last qualified. “But I think we’ve got a good chance this year, because at this point we’re leaps and bounds ahead of where we were last year.”

Along with his on-court contributions, Moore is hoping to become more of role model for his younger teammates this winter.

“As a fifth-year senior and captain, I have a better grasp of what I need to do as a leader, now,” he said. “And I have that sense of urgency that I need to keep guys in line and keep this whole thing on track.

“These new guys that have come in have really clicked, and they seem to understand what Coach is trying to teach us about the offense we’re trying to run. And they get the concept of defense, too, and how important that is in the game.

“That’s why I think we’re going to do really well this year.”

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