Penn State basketball: Ex-Duke guard at home with Lady Lions

wmoody@centredaily.comMay 3, 2013 

As much as Sierra Moore likes a challenge, this test was one of new heights — literally.

The former Pennsylvania Gatorade girls’ high school basketball player of the year found herself playing a new position in her freshman season at Duke.

Going from shooting guard to power forward wasn’t quite what she envisioned with the Blue Devils and it’s a big reason why the former Delone Catholic sensation is now a member of the Penn State roster.

“I’m a 5-foot-10 and during position work I was going against Haley Peters, who is 6-foot-4, Elizabeth Williams, who is 6-foot-5 and Allison Vernerey, who is 6-foot-4, too,” Moore said. “I learned a lot of things and a lot of post moves, but there’s only so much you do when you’re 5-foot-10 and you’re trying to shoot a shot over them.”

Moore averaged just 7.8 minutes in 25 games with the Blue Devils (33-3), scoring at a 2.5 clip and shooting a respectable 45 percent from the floor.

The former Parade and McDonald’s All-America, a player most of the recruiting services had ranked among the top 50 in the country as a high school senior, knew she needed a change.

“I had been thinking about it since second semester had started,” she said. “I wasn’t getting enough playing time and I was playing a position I had never played before.”

While she couldn’t contact another school directly, Moore got help from her AAU coaches, who told her to pick two schools that she’d like to transfer to and present those to coach Joanne P. McCallie to get a release from her scholarship. She chose Penn State and Louisville, but McCallie would not grant a release for the Cardinal who are joining the Atlantic Coast Conference.

McCallie did sign a release for Penn State, who still had interest in Moore, despite a record recruiting class of seven players coming in this fall.

Moore, who had been recruited heavily in high school by coach Coquese Washington and her staff, pounced at second chance to play at Penn State.

“It was really quick and they still wanted me,” she said. “I wasn’t going to turn that down. I jumped right on it.

“They were actually in my Top 5 when I was picking schools,” Moore added. “I know don’t know why I didn’t pick them. I guess it was because I was really set on playing at an ACC school . Penn State was the only school that wasn’t from the ACC in my Top 5.”

Moore said the same reasons she had Penn State among her finalists still apply.

“Coach Washington is amazing,” Moore said. “She’s an incredible lady. I just enjoyed her so much.

“Their style of play -- just getting up and down the court -- I like that. The team looked like they got together so well and I really like chemistry with the team.”

Moore, who was on campus Saturday to sign her paperwork, said she already feels part of the group. She took many recruiting visits to University Park and knows many of her future teammates.

She’ll have to wait a year to play with them, however, as per NCAA transfer rules. Moore believes the year to integrate into the program and school will help her when she returns for the 2014-2015 season.

“Obviously, anybody wants to play and they don’t want to sit out a year when they transfer,” She said. “I’m using it as a gain for me. I haven’t handled the ball as much as I used to in high school. That’s a big thing. I need to work on my ballhandling again and get it back to where it used to be. I was almost a point guard, but I played the No. 2.

“I’m trying to transform into a shooter. I’m more of a drive, slasher type person with a pull-up ‘J.’ I’m really trying to get that outside shot. That’s what I’m going to work on. In a good way, it’s good that I have to sit out a year because I get to develop my game and get acclimated with the team.”

Moore certainly put up big numbers in high school, netting 2,595 points and grabbing 1,031 rebounds with 432 assists and 360 steals.

She plans to major in early childhood education and special education with the hopes of following her mother Jillda’s footsteps in becoming a teacher.

“I love being around klds,” said Moore, who is currently working at a daycare center. “I felt like it would be a job that I would enjoy waking up every day and going to work to.”

In the meantime, she promises to work hard on her game. She’ll arrive June 22 to take summer classes and to begin workouts with the Lady Lions.

“They were just so welcoming and I already knew most of them,” she said of Saturday’s visit with her new teammates. “I felt right at home already and that’s a good start.”

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