Nick Moore is a point guard with the Thames Valley Tigers in England. The 3-7 Tigers finished 18-18 last season. Moore averaged 16.3 points his last year with UT, 15 points this season.
David Driver Enlarge
BRACKNELL, England - It is less than two hours before game time in Bracknell, a small town about one hour by train west of downtown London.
The television set is on at the Bracknell Sports Centre cafe and bar, but the sport on the air is a rugby match and not a National Basketball Association game.
This is the setting, where soccer is king and hoops an afterthought, in which former University of Toledo basketball standout Nick Moore earns his living in the land of fish and chips, Hugh Grant and weird accents.
He is the starting point guard for the Thames Valley Tigers of the 11-team British Basketball League, the top circuit in England.
It has not been an easy season so far. Two days after Thanksgiving, with family and friends thousands of miles away in Ohio and Michigan, his team was hit with three technical fouls in a 20-point loss to the visiting Plymouth Raiders. Thames Valley is 3-7 after an 18-18 mark last season.
"The referees," says Moore, pausing, with a smile on his face. "I don't know what to say about them. That was one of the things that I was warned about when I came here last year, not to say anything to them."
The soft-spoken Moore did not get a technical in the Nov. 27 game, played before a few hundred fans in a well-lighted gymnasium no larger than many American high school arenas. But since Moore is the team's point guard and plays nearly a full 40 minutes each night, he feels responsible for what happens on the court.
"He brings a lot of floor leadership," said Englishman Gary Stronach, the veteran Plymouth coach. "You can tell that he is trying to get them into [offensive] sets. He is a good baller."
Moore is averaging about 15 points and four assists per game this season, and had a game-high 24 points Sunday as Thames Valley won 84-81 over the Chester Jets.
Said Thames Valley teammate Josh Murray, who at Ball State played against Moore in the Mid-American Conference from 1999-2001: "I think he does a good job of reading the game. He is a great shooter. He has matured a little bit on the court" since college.
Moore averaged 16.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game in his last season at Toledo in 2002-03. In his first three seasons for coach Stan Joplin, he averaged 5.3, 10 and 14.3 points per game.
This is Moore's second season with Thames Valley. He worked out for French scouts in the United States last year, but when the English offer came, "I jumped at it," he said.
He was averaging 14.6 points and 5.0 assists per game in 11 outings last season when he tore a ligament in his knee on Nov. 29, 2003. He had surgery in England, missed the rest of the season and then returned to Toledo this past summer to continue rehab work.
Other former UT players now pros overseas, according to www.usbasket.com, include Harvey Knuckles (who played at Toledo from 1978-81) in France and Casey Shaw (1994-98) in Italy.
So does Moore, who turned 25 on Dec. 10, get homesick?
"Oh yeah. Every day," he said, sitting in the cafe 90 minutes before tipoff. "You realize you can't just run down the street and see one of your friends.
"The biggest challenge is just the day-to-day life, getting used to a different culture. For me, the challenges are the simple things. I don't eat here like I do back home. Day-to-day life is a bit slower [in Bracknell]. London is a lot bigger."
Moore said he has seen most of the major tourist sites in London. He also has been to Wales and Scotland, and plans to visit France and Italy over the upcoming Christmas holiday.
He lives with the two other Americans on the team in a rent-free, two-bathroom house, and is provided a car at no charge by the team, a typical arrangement for most Americans in western European leagues. Moore said the living situation and pay at Thames Valley "is pretty good."
The Detroit product said that Americans who play in England make between $30,000 and $70,000 per season, which lasts about eight months. Moore and his teammates normally lift weights and shoot in the morning, have lunch and free time in the afternoon and then practice for about two hours starting around 7 p.m. His team normally plays just once a week.
To make extra money, Moore gives clinics for schoolchildren who range in age from about 9 to 12. He said that basketball is not part of the physical education program at schools in Bracknell.
"Their basketball is not on our [American] level yet. I would say they are pretty far behind kids in the States," said Moore, who graduated from UT in 2003 with a marketing degree. "Just to get a grasp of a simple layup is sometimes hard."
Moore would welcome the chance to move up in Europe, which means a contract with a team in a country that pays more and where basketball is more popular, such as Italy, France and Spain, to name a few.
"That is ideal. That was my plan last year if I did well, but then I got hurt. I am not sure how things will work out. A lot is up in the air. But I still love to play the game."