Michelle Smith WBB Feature: Oregon's Moore takes advantage of opportunity of a lifetime

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Minyon Moore wanted a change. Of scenery. Of system. Of comfort zone. She’s gotten it all, and more.

Moore picked up her basketball career and moved north to Eugene last year after graduating from USC a year early. She said she was looking for an “opportunity of a lifetime,” a chance to win a national title, a chance to play on a team with the nation’s best players. And a chance to challenge herself at Oregon.

“For sure, it’s been a huge change, but it’s been amazing,” Moore said, as she prepares with her Ducks teammates for Thursday night’s nationally televised showdown with No. 3 Stanford. “I was born and raised in California. I was interested in a different experience for my last year.”

The experience that Moore has gotten has been fast and relentless. She has one year as a graduate transfer to settle in with her teammates, learn a new system, lead and thrive.

Ducks coach Kelly Graves was looking for a player to replace four-year starter Maite Carzola as a floor-leading guard. The opportunity to bring Moore in was a chance for a “plug-and-play” veteran.

“The reality is, it’s a different fit,” Graves said. “There was a whole skill set we were used to with Maite and Minyon is a different player. It’s a work in progress, but a good one.”

Moore, already one of the top defensive players in the conference, averaged 14.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and six assists as a junior at USC, leading the team in the latter two categories.

The 5-foot-8 guard has started all 15 games for the Ducks thus far, averaging 7.7 points and 2.3 rebounds and she ranks second on the team – behind national player of the year Sabrina Ionescu – in assists (4.6 apg) and steals (1.3 spg).

“We’ve been so good offensively, and for four years, Maite ran us the same way,” Graves said. “Minyon has had to cram it in so quickly. But it’s incredible. She is an awesome teammate. She is our best talker. If you are sitting next to her on the bench, you are getting an earful all game long.

“She brings us so much energy defensively. We are a much better defensive team than we’ve been since I’ve been here, and she deserves a lot of credit.”

Graves called Moore, the first graduate transfer he’s coached, a “godsend.”

“It’s hard. It takes a while to get people acclimated,” Graves said. “It’s been challenging in some ways, but if anyone can do it, it’s Minyon. By the time we get into March and April, she will have a full year under her belt, and we will be the better for it.”

Moore said this has been the most challenging year of her basketball career.

“Coming out of high school, there wasn’t really a moment where I felt like ‘This is really hard,’” Moore said. “But playing here, you need to fit into a system. And I am surrounded by great players, who have played together for a long time. There are four starters here who know each other, and know the offense.”

Moore said she felt comfortable right way. Her teammates and her coaches made sure of that.

“There is a great chemistry and a culture here,” Moore said. “Everyone is close. Everyone gets along.”

The biggest difference in her experience so far has been going from a team that’s hungry for the upset, to the team that’s hungry to avoid one.

“There are 10,000 fans here every night cheering for us,” Moore said. “This is the atmosphere I wanted when I came here.”

A true change of scenery.

Michelle Smith is a contributing writer for pac-12.com. She has covered pro and college sports for espnW, San Francisco Chronicle, The Athletic and AOL Fanhouse. She was has won several awards, including the WBCA's Mel Greenberg Media Award, presented annually to a member of the media who has best displayed commitment to advancing the role of the media in women's basketball. For previous Michelle Smith features on pac-12.com, visit the archives page.

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