Opinion: Now or never for Jalen Moore, Oakland Basketball


Photo courtesy of Oakland University Athletics

Jalen Moore scored 24 points in a losing effort against Northern Kentucky.

Three years ago, a junior transfer from Olney Central College by the name of Jalen Moore stepped foot on Oakland University’s campus. Moore was an undersized yet crafty point guard who was looking to take the next step in his career by playing Division I basketball at Oakland.

Moore played basketball for two seasons at Olney Central before transferring to Oakland.

It was a pretty big step for Moore. Olney Central is a small community college in Illinois with an enrollment of just over 1,000 students. Oakland University is — well, quite larger.

Moore averaged 22.6 points, 6.2 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game as a sophomore at Olney Central. He was the go-to scorer, as a player of his caliber should have been at a school as small as Olney Central.

It seemed Moore had outgrown his surroundings, and he made the transition to Oakland to play for Coach Greg Kampe. 

Oakland outnumbers Olney Central by about 15 to 1 in terms of students. It was a drastic change for the junior, but one that wasn’t insurmountable.

It wasn’t clear how Moore would handle the transition, but he did so easily. So easily, in fact, that he led all of NCAA Division I in assists per game, along with scoring just shy of 18 points a night.

It’s been history in the making for the talented point guard ever since. Moore was named to the Horizon League First Team in each of his first two seasons at Oakland, and he’s been keeping a mediocre team afloat for much of the 2022-23 season.

Through all of the success Moore has had in his collegiate career — he’s never averaged fewer than 15 points per game — there’s one thing that he has yet to experience: the NCAA Tournament. The Big Dance. March Madness.

The time of the season when records and stats can be thrown out the window. It’s all irrelevant in the NCAA Tournament, because any given team can beat any given team on any given night. We saw it in 2018 when 16-seed University of Maryland, Baltimore County upset top overall seed Virginia in the first round, and in 2016 when 15-seed Middle Tennessee knocked off second-seeded Michigan State.

Some Cinderellas are even lucky enough to make it past the first round. We saw it just last year when 15-seed Saint Peter’s advanced all the way to the Elite Eight.

Saint Peter’s guard Doug Edert’s social media blew up over just the span of a couple days. Edert was America’s sweetheart last March, and he was one of the most recognizable names in sports for a two-week period.

It’s not nationwide attention or a massive social media following that Moore is interested in, though. 

“I just want to win,” Moore said after a crushing 96-74 defeat at the hands of the Detroit Mercy Titans on Friday night. “I don’t care about the career highs, stats, none of that. I just want to win.”

Every Division I program in the country is given an opportunity to punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament, as each conference holds a postseason tournament. The champion of each conference tournament is rewarded with an automatic bid into the bid dance.

Oakland might have to catch fire down the stretch, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

“It’s my last year here,” Moore said. “Three guaranteed games left. I just told the guys in the locker room, ‘I just want to win, bad.’ They all have to want to win as much as I do — and I think they do.”

There will always be more seasons of Oakland basketball. NCAA Tournament opportunities will never fade for the program.

But for Moore, it’s now or never. Literally.