It's really, really hard to grade Julian Moore's performance in 2015. Should he be graded based on his production, or the fact that he was arguably the most skilled center on Penn State's roster? Should we take into account that he was a redshirt freshman and this was his first year consistently playing college basketball, or should we grade him on the same scale that most players get graded on?
Regardless, it was a solid redshirt freshman campaign for the former three-star recruit out of Fort Washington, PA. While he didn't get playing time that consistently, he generally took advantage of his limited minutes, and certainly seemed like the most refined low-post man for the Nittany Lions. Already a gifted athlete, Moore began to show signs of a nice offensive game, he is a strong passer and he was a solid defender when he wasn't fouling people, which was a major issue because he's a big man for Penn State basketball.
Should he continue on his upward trajectory, it's not crazy to think that Moore could turn into a really nice two-way center. As for this year, well...
Pat Chambers obviously placed a little more trust into Moore during the conference slate, and it kinda paid off. He didn't make a massive leap – it's not like Moore had a Sasa Borovnjak-esque jump out of nowhere – but hey, he did a solid job. There's really not much here that's great, per se, and his turnover rate was especially brutal, but there are plenty of nice things that suggest a bigger role could mean great things for Moore in the future (his eFG% and DReb% were the highest among the team's centers, and his Blk% was nice for a redshirt frosh who played limited minutes). Also, if you're into this sort of thing, here are Moore's per 40 minute numbers.
Kind of surprisingly, Moore was the worst shooter from right near the hoop of Penn State's centers. Of course, most of his issues have to do with the fact that this was his first full year playing college basketball (getting used to the physicality/pace of the game, getting comfortable with his teammates, etc.). However, his best asset is that he has an effective jumper out to 12-15 feet. If he can shoot about 60 percent at the rim and continue to have a nice face-up game, he can be special on offense.
Well, I suppose it would be that Moore seemed to have some semblance of an idea of what he should do on offense when he's given the basketball. This is why crazy people like me are so enamored with him: as opposed to Jordan Dickerson (whose offense is mostly put backs and tip-ins) and Donovon Jack (whose offense is terribly inconsistent), Moore generally understand the intricacies of playing offensive basketball down low. This doesn't just mean he has good footwork and a nice low post game, which he does, but he is also a nice passer and has a solid jump shot. Give him more time to work on refining his offensive game and he can possibly be a guy who consistently puts up double-digits for Pat Chambers' squad.
He's a center for Penn State so he fouls a lot. In his defense, he only averaged 5.6 fouls per 40 minutes (remember, kids, that's relatively good!), but that's still, uh, bad. Also, despite the aforementioned offensive ability that we saw out of Moore, he only attempted 40 shots in 2014-15. Part of this was because he was a redshirt freshman who played in a guard-oriented offense, part of that was because he played 7.6 minutes per game. If you could sum up Moore's production in three words, they would be "small," "sample" and "size." One final thing: he sometimes knows what to do on defense, but sometimes he is caught completely out of position (it doesn't happen all the time, maybe once or twice a game). It's ugly. Again, redshirt freshman problems.
vs. Illinois - 22 minutes, 10 points, 4 rebounds, 4-for-7 shooting
Here was the scoring breakdown for Penn State's 60-58 loss to Illinois: D.J. Newbill (20 points), Shep Garner (14 points), six players (14 points), Julian Moore (10 points). One thing we always said about the 2014-15 Nittany Lions was that it needed at least one player other than Newbill to do thing, preferably two. Garner played well, and Moore had a season high in minutes and points. Unfortunately, because Penn State basketball, he came down with an illness after and was limited in the next handful of games, but this was the brightest moment and best example of the player Moore can be somewhere down the line.
I wouldn't be surprised at all if Moore becomes the team's starting center at some time in 2015-16. If he continues to progress on the offensive side of the ball and doesn't make some of the mental mistakes that we've seen from him – namely understanding defensive positioning and cutting back on turnovers – he can put together a really campaign. Consider him the big man with the highest ceiling among the Moore-Dickerson-Jack trio, and should he reach that ceiling, look out.
However, he will probably start the season second or third on the depth chart, although he will certainly get more time than he did in 2014-15. He's a prime candidate for a guy who can carve out a nice role next year and a have monster impact in 2016-17.
Final Grade: B-
Julian Moore was a nice basketball player who filled a specific role and never was a raging tire fire in 2014-15. He was often decent and did fine with the limited minutes he received, but never really did anything that helped Penn State win basketball games (he scored more than four points once, the aforementioned game against Illinois, which the Nittany Lions lost). He also has a fair amount of potential and generally seemed like the most talented center on Penn State's roster. I think a B- is fair, what say you?