Two years ago, J.P. Moorman would have described himself as a “role player” or “average player.”
But Freddy Johnson, who has coached basketball at Greensboro Day School in North Carolina for the last 40 years, ranked Moorman among the Top 10 players he has coached. The list includes former North Carolina State University guard Justin Gainey, who ranks 14th in school history in assists and Thomas Roberts, the sixth-highest scorer in the College of William & Mary’s history.
To be mentioned among those names, Moorman had to become more athletic. He lost 25 pounds after his sophomore season and grew an inch. He drank only water for a month and was usually the only person in the exercise room at his apartment complex when he worked out in the morning.
Temple’s coaching staff watched the 6-foot-7 forward on Jan. 15 against South Philadelphia’s Neumann-Goretti High School. Moorman scored 26 points against Neumann-Goretti, which features Villanova signee Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree and University of Kentucky commit Quade Green, the No. 22 player in the ESPN Top 100. Five days before, Moorman earned a nomination for the McDonald’s All-American game.
On Thursday night, Moorman was on his way to High Point, North Carolina to watch 6-foot-10 forward Justyn Hamilton play in Independence High School’s road playoff game. Moorman and Hamilton are half of the Owls’ incoming recruiting class. Nate Pierre-Louis, a 6-foot-4 guard from Roselle Catholic High School in New Jersey, and De’Vondre Perry, a 6-foot-6 forward at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, are the other two commits. All four players are ranked as four-star recruits by ESPN and three-star recruits by Rivals.com.
Moorman, who helped his team win a state title on Saturday, is already thinking about playing on North Broad.
“I’m probably the most upset every time Temple loses, because I wish I was out there to do whatever I can to help,” Moorman said.
Pierre-Louis said he’s had a basketball in his hand as long as he can remember. His dad Frantz played internationally in Italy, Austria and the Philippines, and Nate said he spent the first six or seven years of his life living abroad. He had a hoop and a basketball in each place.
Nate’s passion for the game continued in the United States. He and senior guard Josh Brown, who is also from New Jersey, worked out together when Brown was a high school sophomore and Nate was a sixth grader. Nate also went with Brown on trips to play Amateur Athletic Union games.
Nate said he hasn’t beaten his dad, who has a four-inch height advantage, in a game of one-on-one. But the games are teaching moments, just like when he calls Owls’ assistant coach Aaron McKie for advice after games.
“He plays well above the rim, he shoots it pretty well and he never takes a play off, which I think is probably his greatest attribute,” Roselle Catholic coach Dave Boff said.
All four players will add athleticism and flexibility to the Owls. Perry averaged a double-double as a junior, as well as 5.1 assists. He called himself a “big, athletic wing-guard” who likes to take advantage of mismatches. Perry scored 21 points, grabbed 19 rebounds, dished five assists and swatted five shots on Feb. 7 to help Baltimore Polytechnic beat Patterson, a Top 10 team in Maryland. His profile on Hudl.com, a site high school athletes use to showcase their highlights, notes that he plays all five positions.
Hamilton received invitations to two USA Basketball camps after averaging 9.6 points and 8.3 rebounds as a junior. This season, he averaged 11.8 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. He said he tries to model his game after five-time NBA All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge, who can score in the post and is shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range this season.
“I’m wishing to add on just like defense, strong rebounds, just being like really active,” Hamilton said. “When that happens, only good things tend to happen.”
“I know that just doing one thing is not going to help the team win,” Perry said. “You have to do multiple things and growing up being versatile, that helps a lot.”
Pierre-Louis has known freshman guard Alani Moore II and sophomore guard Shizz Alston Jr. since middle school. He can’t wait to step on the Liacouras Center floor for the first time during the regular season.
“It’s going to be a special night because it’s going to be the start of something special,” he said.
Evan Easterling can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Evan_Easterling.