KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee forward Armani Moore’s college career has offered him lessons on the importance of adapting to change and responding to adversity.
As the Volunteers’ top returning player in nearly every major statistical category, Moore is ready to spend his senior year applying what he’s learned from all the upheaval. Moore and his teammates are adjusting to their third coaching staff in as many seasons.
”It’s definitely something that nobody wants to go through,” Moore said. ”You’ve just got to live with (it). Everything happens for a reason.”
Tennessee’s transition period started when former coach Cuonzo Martin left for California after leading the Vols to a regional semifinal in 2014. Martin was replaced by Donnie Tyndall, who lasted just one season before getting fired when Tennessee officials determined the NCAA would likely rule he committed major violations while coaching Southern Mississippi from 2012-14.
Tennessee replaced Tyndall with Rick Barnes, who led Texas to NCAA tournament bids in 16 of his 17 years on the job but got fired at the end of the 2014-15 season. One of Barnes’ first tasks in his new job was to establish a rapport with Moore.
”I think it was really hard on him with the coaching change,” Barnes said. ”I think he kind of wanted to get away. He was one of the first players I had a really, really serious talk with.”
Moore says he never considered transferring and is reluctant to go into the specifics of that meeting with Barnes, but the 6-foot-5 senior acknowledges the conversation helped him feel better about the situation.
”He told me all the right things,” Moore said. ”He wasn’t just talking to me and telling me something to try to get me to stay at Tennessee, (though) I wasn’t planning on leaving anyway. He’s a great guy.”
Moore averaged 10.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.2 blocks per game last season to lead Tennessee’s returning players in all four categories.
He can contribute just about anywhere. Moore got some minutes at point guard as a freshman but grew more comfortable at wing. Tennessee’s lack of size this past season caused Moore to work often at power forward, where he held his own against much bigger foes.
Moore is preparing for the possibility of handling the ball more this season for a team whose only pure point guard is incoming freshman Lamonte Turner.
”I think I’ll have the ball in my hands a lot this year,” Moore said. ”Second of all, I think I’ve got to be a very vocal leader on the court, get my teammates going. I’ve got to stay poised when everybody else is feeling a little discombobulated.”
Moore’s leadership skills already were evident this summer when he spent 1 1-2 weeks showing his 9-year-old brother, Jeffrey, around campus. Moore says he wants ”to be a role model for him, show him the ropes and show what kind of road he’s got to go down to be successful.”
Moore’s road to success has featured a new twist with each position switch and coaching change. He’s ready to take the next step in that journey and believes he’s prepared for any other issues ahead.
”Adversity, it hits when you’re not expecting it,” Moore said. ”It’s just all about how you take adversity. When it comes, you have to deal with it. My teammates have got my back, and I’ve got their back, so we’ll all fight through it together.”