Tennessee freshman Armani Moore was still searching in June 2011.
He floated across some recruiting radars as a combo guard at Swainsboro High School in Central Georgia, just off the freeway connecting Macon and Savannah.
He needed an audience.
That’s how he’d gain high-major attention, he told himself.
So walking onto the floor for the Reebok Headliner Tryout Camp, Moore understood what was on the line. His game earned him an invitation to the camp. A sterling performance could earn him an invitation to the big time — The Reebok Breakout Challenge camp in Philadelphia — where bleachers are stocked with Division I coaches presented open doors to opportunity.
In Atlanta, with much on the line, Moore played his way into the camp’s All-Star game.
That, in turn, garnered the coveted invitation north.
“It was an accomplishment coming from a small town and getting invited to the camp in Philly,” Moore said, when recently asked for his proudest moment on the floor. “It was just me and one of my coaches going there. It was crazy.
“Most people from a small town like that don’t think you can do something so big.”
After garnering some of the attention he thought he warranted, Moore ultimately moved on to a new school, Mount Paran Christian School in Kennesaw, Ga. There he averaged 22 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.9 blocks and 2.3 steals per game.
With the slogan, “Where your game makes your name,” the Breakout camp champions itself as a proving ground.
Moore proved the motto right.
Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin was in the stands in Philly. Moore caught his eye.
Now Moore will be catching minutes as a backup freshman point guard for the Vols.
Q: Is there a preferred nickname Tennessee fans should know?
A: All growing up, people called me ‘Money.” No one really calls me Armani — it’s just “Money,” but they can call me whatever they decide.
Q: Where does “Money” stem from? Your play on the floor?
A: Not really. It’s just a short name my friends called me.
Q: What’s something only a few people know about you?
A: I play basketball, but I’m not a very outgoing person. I just like to sit back and observe most of the time. I’m really quiet.
Q: If you’re the quietest, then who is the loudest clown on the team?
A: I’d say the most obnoxious, but not in a clown way, is Quinton Chievous. He’s always screaming. He’s just very loud; always hollering.
Q: How is fellow freshman Derek Reese as a roommate?
A: He’s pretty chill. He doesn’t bother me or anything. We’re good.
Q: If you can only have one song on your iPod for the whole season, what is it?
A: “Ball Forever” by Future.
Q: Who has the worst taste in music?
A: Josh (Richardson). Every time I get in his car he’s playing something I never heard of before.
Q: Is it any good?
A: No. Not at all.
Q: What’s your favorite class so far?
A: Geology, because it’s the easiest
Q: Jordan, LeBron or Kobe?
A: He does everything.
Q: Who on the team does the best impression of Coach Martin?
A: I think mine is—, nah, I’m not going to say that. I’ll say Yemi (Makanjuola). You can’t understand him, but he does the best.
Q: Can I hear yours?
A: Oh no!
Q: I recall in Italy some rap battles breaking out during various bus rides. You won the title. Are you still wearing the crown?
A: I think I’m the champion right now. There’s no competition at all.
Q: So your full name is Armani T’Bori Moore. Where does T’Bori come from?
A: I don’t know. It’s just a unique middle name that my family came up with. I can’t really explain it.
Q: Why are you majoring in communications?
A: First of all just want to get my education and then hopefully play professionally. But after that I’d like to get into radio broadcasting — something to fall back on.
Q: If you were a radio broadcaster right now, what would be your preseason prognosis for the Vols?
A: I’d say it’s an upcoming team that Coach Martin is making work hard and that doesn’t take days off. It’s a team that’s going to come out this season and fight.
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn