One in a series of player profiles previewing the 2020-21 City Six college basketball season.
This wasn’t new. J.P. Moorman didn’t wake up one morning this year and decide it was finally time to use his voice. Now a Temple senior, Moorman can remember when former Owls coach Fran Dunphy came to his home in North Carolina on a recruiting visit, Moorman starting a discussion about Colin Kaepernick.
Maybe the talk didn’t quite get to Moorman asking Dunphy what he would do if Moorman took a knee during the national anthem. But the talk stuck with Moorman, made him comfortable with spending the next four years at Temple.
“I’m glad we talked about it,” Moorman said. “It let me know Coach would be supportive of it, if I wanted to take a step like that. I’ve always been a guy who has personally felt like an activist.”
As it turned out, Moorman said, he never took a knee. That wasn’t the point of the conversation.
“I didn’t want to do it just to take the spotlight,” Moorman said.
Fast-forward to 2020. It’s been a tough year, he said, a dispiriting year, in too many ways.
“We’re kind of numb to seeing dead bodies,” Moorman said. “I’m not sure people realize seeing real death of their own people on the internet all the time, the toll it takes. I want more for my people.”
This summer, Moorman joined a racial equity action group convened by the American Athletic Conference. The group has talked about using its sports platforms to better the surrounding communities, how often these campuses exist in food deserts for local neighborhoods, and funding for public education is substandard.
Has he seen hints of progress?
“Not yet,” Moorman said. “That’s the frustrating part of it. We have no real power, per se.”
He’ll stay vocal, Moorman said. “I’ve been always been pretty vocal, honestly.”
That applies to basketball. Now 6-foot-7, Moorman said he played point guard his first two years of high school. “I was like 6-1,” he said, which explains a lot about his game, which often correlates to a point forward role, the ball moving through Moorman on the high post before getting to its ultimate scoring destination.
Moorman played for a strong high school program in Greensboro, N.C., a state champion. He also played AAU ball with future NBA players.
“I’ve always been that glue guy,” Moorman said. “People respect my basketball intelligence, and I’m a really honest guy.”
But not trying to be that loud guy. With friends, he said, “I would say I was more of a listener. … You learn different personalities. You’ve got to learn the people you’re playing with, learn how they grow. Some guys like you to get in their face. Other guys, you’ve got to be gentler. Not coddle them, but not as loud.”
All this should come in handy this season, as Temple has so many new faces on the roster.
“J.P. has leadership qualities,” said coach Aaron McKie, who took over for Dunphy before last season and was an assistant when Moorman first arrived. “You recognized that from Day 1. … He wasn’t afraid to use his voice. We’re going to need it a lot this year. We’ve got a lot of young guys.”
This role, McKie said, “it’s not just being in the gym with us. It’s being out in the community, a lot of social justices and social injustices that he’s involved with. He’s a well-rounded person.”
In that gym, to which way does Moorman himself respond best: getting in his face or being a little gentler?
“I respond well to both, honestly,” Moorman said.
It comes back, he believes, to him being a listener.
“If you don’t pay attention, you can’t really be a great leader,” Moorman said. “If you’re going into it blind, you’re not going anywhere.”
None of this is new. But it does help explain why Temple players see that their program is in capable internal hands.
“He works like a leader,” McKie said. “He acts like a leader.”