Home » Columns » Currently Reading:

Does Size Matter?

January 10, 2002 Columns No Comments

Does Size Really Matter?

by David Mosse

When Josh Moore and his 7 foot 2, 300-pound frame set foot on the University of Michigan campus in September of 2000, he carried with him a burden of expectations. After two years of being overpowered in the rugged Big Ten and missing out on several interior recruits, Michigan had finally found their man.

Two years and several ill-advised fouls later, Moore was dismissed from the Michigan basketball team. Although head coach Tommy Amaker cited academic performance as the reason for Moore’s departure, no Michigan fan that saw him in action over the past two seasons shed a tear from hearing the news.

Moore played in 29 games for the Wolverines, starting just five. He averaged a mere 4.5 points and 2.6 rebounds in just under 11 minutes per game. He also displayed a remarkable inability to stay on the floor without getting in foul trouble. In his brief Michigan career, Moore collected more fouls (93) than rebounds (76).

A New Jersey native, Moore had taken a curious path to Ann Arbor. He verbally committed to Rutgers during his junior year of high school, but blossomed into a prized recruit following a strong senior campaign at St. Thomas Prep in Connecticut. Feeling he had sold himself short Moore waved goodbye to the Scarlet Knights and sought greener pastures, eventually landing with UCLA.

However, academic complications prevented him from ever suiting up in a Bruin’s uniform. In the summer of 2000 he and the school officially parted ways, making Moore, in essence, a free agent.

Then embattled Michigan head coach Brian Ellerbe, desperate to fill the void still left from the departure of Robert “Tractor” Traylor, pounced on Moore, bringing the big man to the Big Ten.

From the moment he arrived, Moore created a major stir. His sheer size was enough to draw stares from the student body, and when word spread of a friendship Moore had struck during his time on the West Coast with none other than Shaquille O’Neal (the two workout together during the summer), the intrigue surrounding the tallest player in Michigan history only grew.

Moore was hailed as a savior, despite the fact that no one had ever seen him play. Michigan fans were not the only ones guilty of such a miscalculation. Multiple publications wondered aloud how many years Moore would spend in a Michigan uniform before taking his size and talent to the next level.

Josh Moore should have no problem finding a new home. After all, “you can’t teach height.” He also may find a coach with the time and patience to work on the fundamentals that seem to have eluded him. And if that happens, he may someday enjoy some success in the NBA.

Yet the more likely scenario seems to be for Moore to end up the same waste of space as Luther Wright or Priest Lauderdale, other 7-footers who fell victim to society’s fascination with size.

As Moore turned in one dismal performance after another, many Michigan fans wondered aloud whether Ellerbe had even watched him play before offering him a scholarship. Ellerbe may very well have simply been enamored with the height and brute strength he possessed, and worried about the pesky details (such as actual basketball skills) later. He certainly would not be the first coach to commit such an egregious error.

It seems every year an NBA team selects a 7-foot foreigner in the draft who they immediately term a “project.” Can a team adequately judge how a player will fare in the NBA based on his performance against European competition? The answer is no. The word ‘project’ signifies the player was simply taken for his physical dimensions and the onus will be on the coach to teach him the game of basketball.

The reality is very few of these players ever amount to anything. The history of the NBA is filled with stories of underachievers and unequivocal failures. Yet the center position seems to account for more of these cases than any other. Basketball is a game of skill and being tall hardly ensures success. In fact it can serve as a crutch. Generally speaking, the bigger you are, the less agile and coordinated you will be.

A Center like Shaquille O’Neal, who possesses the footwork and athleticism of a guard, is a rare breed. The average big man is usually just that – average. If a player’s only virtue is his size, it usually means he is destined for failure.

Yet coaches continue to be fascinated with height and place their hopes on the shoulders of players with limited skills. Next June some NBA franchise will undoubtedly invest a lottery pick, and if you believe early prognosticators maybe even the top pick, on 7-foot-5 Chinese center Yao Ming. While the few who have seen Ming play offer glowing reports, their comments sound remarkably similar to those uttered about Shawn Bradley.

Undaunted, college coaches will continue to recruit 7-foot giants with questionable talent to patrol the paint. And while some of these players will develop into stars, more will end up like Josh Moore. And then there are those who will manage to disguise their flaws at the collegiate level and find themselves in the NBA, only to end up as the next Yinka Dare.

Call it the curse of Shaq, but one player’s perceived physical dominance over the rest of the league has sent basketball coaches everywhere scurrying for their own powerful big man. Yet, Josh Moore is the latest to prove that such a player is very hard to find.

After all, not even Shaq could help him.


Comment on this Article:

Subscribe to Hoopville

Enter your email address to subscribe to Hoopville


Hoopville Archives

College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show aired on AM 710 WOR in New York City on Sunday evenings starting with Selection Sunday and running through the NCAA Tournament.

Here are links to the shows:

March 13, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 20, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 27, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

April 3, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

Coaching Changes

The coaching carousel is moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Everybody Needs a Head Coach

Former college basketball coach Mike Jarvis has a new book out, Everybody Needs a Head Coach.

"As you read this book, I hope that Coach Jarvis' experiences inspire you to find your purpose in life."
-Patrick Ewing, NBA Hall of Fame center

"Mike Jarvis' is one of my special friends. I am so pleased that he has taken the time to write this fabulous book."
-Mike Krzyzewski, Five-time NCAA championship head coach, Duke Blue Devils

"In reading this book, I can see that Mike hasn't lost his edge or his purpose. Readers should take a look at what he has to say."
-Jim Calhoun, Three-time NCAA champion, UConn Men's basketball

Review on Hoopville coming soon!

Hoopville Podcasts

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – March 17, 2018

March 17, 2018 by

In our latest podcast, there is one main story to focus on: history being made in Charlotte and its aftermath. But we also talk about tough times for the Pac-12 and a key member school, plus an added challenge ahead at Pittsburgh.

College Basketball Tonight – March 11, 2018

March 12, 2018 by

College Basketball Tonight returns with a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament bracket, and in the second segment Mount St. Mary’s head coach Jamion Christian joins us.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – March 10, 2018

March 10, 2018 by

As Championship Week nears its climax on the big Saturday, we look at a pair of semifinals and a lot of bubble teams that may be sweating it out on Sunday.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – March 8, 2018

March 8, 2018 by

As Championship Week heats up, we talk about bubble teams who may or may not want to earn their way into the NCAA Tournament, as well as a couple of mid-majors whose conference championship game was played earlier in the week.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – February 22, 2018

February 22, 2018 by

In our latest podcast, we start with floor issues in the Big East and an important NCAA ruling that was upheld. Then we go on to the Big 12, where Wednesday night had a new twist, as well as the ACC and how it shapes up along with no team going undefeated in conference play this year.

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Recruiting Coverage

Lincoln captures Hamilton Park title

August 15, 2017 by

For the first time, a public school won the Hamilton Park Summer League, and they were led by a big effort from a junior point guard in the title game.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Boston Shootout

June 12, 2017 by

Some news and notes coming from the second and final day of action at the 2017 Boston Shootout, where the host program provided plenty of talent, but so did a program that produced a team that beat them.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Northeast Hoops Festival

April 11, 2017 by

The Northeast Hoops Festival helped bring in the new spring travel season in New England, and we have notes from some of Saturday’s action.

2016 Boston Back to School Showcase notes

September 12, 2016 by

We look back at the 2016 Boston Back to School Showcase, where a couple of Boston City League teams were among the most impressive on the day.

2016 Hoopville Spring Finale championship recap

June 28, 2016 by

We look back at the championship games of the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, which had a big local flavor as one might have expected.