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Moore is Better
It's been a long road for OU guard

Without so much as even a hint of hesitation, the smallest player on the floor let fly with the biggest shot of her life, a high-arcing jumper that seemed to slice its way through the suspense-filled air like a heat-seeking missile pointed at the sun.

Shot goes in and Oklahoma goes home with a defining victory over defending national champion Baylor. Shot stays out and the Bears get five minutes of overtime to regroup and possibly find a way to stretch their homecourt winning streak to 26 straight.

Kendra Moore’s pressure-packed 20-footer was destined to both disappoint and cause jubilation in the measure of a single heartbeat.

Seconds earlier, the 5-foot-5 Oklahoma guard had set the wheels in motion for such a dramatically-varied sequence when she drained two other clutch shots. The first, a running 13-footer in the lane tied the game 67-67 at the 1:39 mark. The second, a long-range 3-pointer put OU on top 70-68 with 23 seconds remaining.

With Baylor’s defense collapsing down on Courtney and Ashley Paris in the paint, Moore looked for teammate Erin Higgins, the next logical choice on OU’s food chain of crunch-time shot takers. Higgins was covered and the clock was ticking away.

It was as if every indicator at every point on the floor was daring Moore to step into the limelight. And as the ball swished through the net with .8 seconds left, any doubt she had in her ability to be a Division-I star melted away.

“I think about that (game-winning) shot every day,” admitted Moore, three weeks after the fact. “It’s a big confidence-builder because it lets me know I can handle that type of situation when the game is on the line.”

The general consensus among her teammates was that Moore has always had what it takes to succeed under those types of circumstances. It was simply a matter of time before the opportunity presented itself and she delivered.

“You love to see a kid who is presented that situation and who turns it into a gold mine. I don’t think anyone on this team was surprised Kendra could do what she did,” said Sherri Coale, whose Sooners used that 73-70 win over Baylor as a springboard to the top of the Big 12 Conference standings.

“Kendra is a cocky little offensive player and I mean that in the most positive, complimentary way. She’s not going to be afraid to step up when the game is on the line. That Baylor game is the perfect example.”

Moore’s current goldmine more closely resembled fool’s gold just over two years ago when she arrived on campus still trying to overcome complications stemming from reconstructive knee surgery.

Prior to her senior season at Ardmore High School, Moore was attending Oklahoma’s annual team camp. Even though she still had a few months to officially make up her mind about where she would attend college, Moore had already made her decision.

“I had known Coach Coale for a while. She had kept up with me and come to my games and recruited me — she really wanted me to play at OU and it was just a good fit,” explained Moore, who committed to the Sooners earlier that same week.

Then came the setback that jeopardized all of her dreams.

During the second game of the opening day of team camp, Moore was in the process of doing a typical jump-stop when her knee gave way and she crumbled to the floor, not knowing whether it was a merely a weird landing or something more serious.

“It didn’t hurt that bad, but I knew something wasn’t right. I got right back up and tried to walk off and it went out again,” said Moore, who missed her entire senior season at Ardmore thanks to the tear in her a right anterior cruciate ligament.

“I had already committed to OU. I knew Coach Coale wanted me here and I knew I was going to do everything in my power to play there. I realized it would be a long road back to get to where I need to be physically, but I was determined.”

The road, as it turned out, was much longer and much more difficult than Moore could have imagined. Two weeks after undergoing surgery to repair her knee, a staph infection developed, which in some instances can be deadly.

Initial oral medications helped rid Moore of the infection, but a few days after going off the pills, it returned. This time, doctors decided to insert a port in her chest called a Hickman line, through which she could take three hour-long IV treatments daily. Finally, after another month of treatment, the infection was gone.

“It made my recovery that much longer. I lost all of my energy. I lost a lot of weight. I just kind of look at it as the Lord put me to the test and my faith in Him helped get me through it,” said Moore.

Moore came in as a freshman and was nowhere close to being ready, mentally or physically, to compete at the D-I level. Her knee was still on the mend and her psyche was understandably fragile. Coale didn’t handle Moore with kid gloves, but she did make sure the young point guard received a little extra TLC whenever possible.

“I was coming off of the knee injury and I knew deep down I wasn’t ready to be at that level. I wanted to be there, but I just wasn’t there yet,” Moore said. “It was a totally different world. I basically made the leap from my junior year in high school right into college. It was a tough transition for me.”

Moore spent her first two seasons in Norman catching up — watching and learning from all-conference guard Dionnah Jackson, who served as her mentor during that time. In fact, both Moore and current backcourt mate Britney Brown benefited greatly from Jackson’s imparted wisdom.

“Dionnah was a big influence on both of us. She was such a great player and she was like my best friend,” noted Moore, who was averaging 5.8 points and 1.4 steals through 23 games.

With Jackson’s departure, point guard duties this season were handed over to Brown, the starter, and Moore, her backup. The duo has been helped by the fact much of the attention directed at the Sooners has focused on the play of the Paris Twins. Their addition to an already-potent lineup has helped turn Coale’s squad into not only the Big 12 favorite, but a legitimate contender on the national scene.

“Kendra and I feed off of each other. We push each other to get better every day,” said Brown. “To watch her step up and hit those shots against Baylor like she did, well, that just shows how far she has come the last two years.”

Moore enjoyed several solid performances this season prior to her memorable 14-point effort against Baylor on Jan. 21. With two healthy knees and her confidence soaring, the budding 21-year-old star is determined to help create more unforgettable moments as a Sooner.

(Editor's Note: This story appears in the Feb. Recruiting Issue of Sooner Spectator magazine.)