Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – At 6-foot-3, Tinara Moore is apt to stand out in just about any crowd.
But that, amazingly, isn’t the first thing one notices about the senior who leads the Central Michigan women’s basketball team in scoring at 18..7 points per game.
No, it’s the wide bright smile and the warm welcoming eyes. Not a mean bone in that lanky body. Positive energy. She gives it, she gets it back.
If the college years are indeed supposed to be about growth and self-discovery, then Tinara Moore epitomizes that journey.
She isn’t finished yet. Not by a long shot. And basketball is just a small part of it.
Moore grew up in Southgate, a suburb of Detroit in the area known as Downriver. Her parents, Nicole and Nzinga, are both Detroit police officers. She has two brothers, Terrance and Matthew, who are three and two years, respectively, older than Moore.
Two cops as parents and two older brothers.
“I didn’t get away with anything, even the slightest thing,” Moore says, laughing. “My parents could read me so well.”
Free time was spent outside with her brothers and other kids in the neighborhood, playing football, basketball, roller blading, bicycle riding, tag. Moore didn’t play organized sports until she reached the seventh grade, and then it was a basketball at the local YMCA.
AAU basketball didn’t come for Moore until she was well into her years at Southgate Anderson High School, where she lettered in basketball, volleyball, cross country and track and field.
Unorganized neighborhood play outdoors? Pickup games with her brothers and the neighborhood kids? Four varsity sports in high school and no AAU or travel ball until her high school years? No mention of cell phones, video games, social media?
Are you listening, millennials? Are you listening, helicopter parents?
Today Moore leads her college basketball team in scoring, and is second in rebounding and combines with Reyna Frost to form the best frontcourt in the Mid-American Conference. Moore is the reigning MAC Defensive Player of the Year, and was a first team all-league selection last season, when she helped lead CMU to its first regular-season conference championship since 1985.
She recently became CMU’s all-time leader in blocked shots, and has posted 11 double-doubles this season. Four of those double-doubles have come in CMU’s last six games, and she has scored at least 22 points in four of those six games and she has developed into a player good enough to have been invited to a professional scouting combine.
She is averaging a double-double (20.8 points, 10.9 rebounds) in league games and has combined with the likes of Frost, Presley Hudson and Cassie Breen to form the nucleus of arguably the best era in program history.
Heading into Wednesday night’s game at Buffalo, Moore has taken part in 78 victories against 41 losses during her career at CMU, and the Chippewas are ranked fourth in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 poll. They are receiving votes in the USA Today and Associated Press polls.
Sue Guevara first spotted Moore on the AAU circuit. Moore had the height, but she was thin, and she didn’t typically play until her team’s games were long decided.
“She could run and she could catch,” Guevara says, her eyes lighting up at the thought of a player with such height who fit her system. “Was she skilled? No.”
Did she have potential? Yes, and that’s what got her to Mount Pleasant 3 ½ years ago.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing in the beginning. It rarely is, particularly for student-athletes who find themselves on their own for the first time in their young lives.
“Freshman year, it was a very difficult time of my life where I didn’t know what I was doing, what I was going to school for,” says Moore, adding that she underestimated how emotionally difficult leaving the safety net of home would be. “Really, (I didn’t know) my own worth. I didn’t how to control my thoughts.”
Things were about to change. And they did so because Guevara, amazingly, urged Moore to put down the basketball and pick up a book.
It might have been one of the best directives ever to come from the veteran coach.
The book was The Secret, written by Rhonda Byrne.
“You attract what you think about the most,” Guevara said of the book’s premise. “The more positively that you can look at a situation, the more positive it’s going to become.”
Moore took it to heart.
“Changed my life, changed how I viewed the world, changed my thoughts and how I was treating people and it helped me on the basketball court as well,” Moore says. “Changed my thoughts, my mental awareness going into practices and games.”
It also changed her outlook away from the athletic realm.
“I really wanted to be head honcho of something, VP of human resources in a Fortune 500 company,” says Moore, who carries a 3.15 grade point average and is majoring in business management. “But as I got older I didn’t think that that will help me change other people’s lives. I’m really concerned with women’s health. I have a passion for women’s health.
“I do believe in doing good for your soul and finding others out in the world who are good for your soul. You’ve got to give out good energy to receive it.”
She applied that fresh attitude to the court. She spent the entire summer of 2015 -- between her freshman and sophomore seasons – in Mount Pleasant, working out with strength and conditioning coach Taylor Larson and honing her game in the gym.
Playing tag in the neighborhood and pickup ball with her big brothers had given way to serious business, and she made the sacrifices and paid the price.
As a sophomore, she moved into the starting lineup and has blossomed.
“I guess I didn’t know how good I was until my sophomore year,” she says. “I can’t be average. I don’t like being a normal person and doing normal things. I knew I had to do something my freshman year to my sophomore.”
Guevara has certainly done her share of prodding and cajoling Moore along the way. That’s a big part of any coach’s job.
Still, the CMU mentor is quick to credit Moore for the remarkable strides that she has made.
“Everything that that kid has become since then, she’s put the time in,” Guevara says. “The time in the weight room, what she has put in in the skill development – the work – to make moves, to attack the basket, the ball handling, and now she’s working on the three.
“She would be the most improved player in my 11 years (at CMU) and we’ve had some good kids come through. She has come the farthest in her development, mentally, physically and skill wise.”
Moore’s game has, unquestionably, mirrored her conscious self-awakening. If you’re at peace with yourself, if you like yourself, it shows to the world.
She has added the 3-point shot to her repertoire, knocking down 22 of her 63 attempts (35 percent) over the past two seasons. She had three triples en route to a season-high 29 points three weeks ago in a win at Akron.
A meme made its way around the Twitter-sphere after that, questioning why a 6-3 post player would camp out behind the 3-point arc and fire away.
Moore breaks into her wide, bright smile at that memory and laughs.
“I can do things other than post up,” she says.
You better believe that she can. She can, and certainly will, do a whole lot more than play ball, too.
Central Michigan will return home to host MAC West and in-state rival Eastern Michigan (9-14, 5-7 MAC) on Saturday, Feb. 17 in a 1 p.m. game at McGuirk Arena. Purchase your tickets today! Also, use the promo code PLAY4KAY for a $3 general admission ticket. Bonus: We're giving away glow sticks from McLaren Central Michigan.