Phases of the Moon

MIKE GANTER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:39 AM ET

Jamario Moon was just launching into his third media scrum in the past four days yesterday when head coach Sam Mitchell called out one final suggestion for the day as he left the gym.

Mitchell advised his 27-year-old rookie not to use up all his 15 minutes of fame because he still wanted to get more out of him.

It hasn't always been this way for Moon. He actually was cut by his D-League team in Mobile, Ala., early in the 2002 season. He was booted out of his community college for academic reasons. He elected for early entry into the NBA draft in 2001 and then went undrafted. He has had summer league stints with various teams, but it wasn't until a good showing at a June tryout camp with the Raptors that Moon really made an impression lasting enough that it earned him a spot on an NBA roster.

Asked yesterday why it didn't happen sooner for him, Moon replied, "I still don't know.

"The point I'm at right now, I don't even think about it," he said. "That's in the past. It's in the wind now. I focus on my future."

Moon went on to say he's older and smarter and making better decisions. "I think I had the ability to play in the league then, but now I'm smarter and I know a lot more about the game."

Moon credits a pair of ex-NBAers, Micheal Ray Richardson and Cliff Levingston, with finally getting him on the proper path to the NBA. "They helped me out the most. They both said: 'Moon, you focus on your defence and you will get a shot.' "

Richardson was Moon's coach the past two seasons with the CBA's Albany Patroons. Despite never starting for Richardson, Moon became a fan favourite in Albany. Dave Bestle, current GM of the team but was then director of operations, recalls the growing chant of "Moon, Moon" every time the Alabama forward checked into the game.

Moon still is very popular in Albany. The team is putting him on the cover of its program and is planning a bus trip for its fans to the Raptors' Jan. 23 game in Boston.

"He's just a fun guy to watch play and fun to be around," Bestle said.

Richardson, who is coaching in Oklahoma, clearly enjoyed his time with Moon.

"That's my man," Richardson says when Moon's name is brought up. "Whenever anyone asked me about Jamario I always told them he was the most athletic guy in the league."

Moon's big break came during a March 25 game in Anderson, Ind., in a 118-114 win over the Indiana Alley Cats. Raptors scout Darrell Hedric, who no longer is with the team, had been talking with Alley Cats assistant coach Rob Spon earlier in the week. He explained that the Raptors did not have a draft pick and were looking to invite an athletic forward who could shoot and play defence for a tryout.

Spon, who does some scouting for the Cleveland Cavaliers, had been after the Cavs to secure Moon for their veteran camp. The Cavs were reluctant given the fact that no other team in the NBA had shown any interest in Moon.

Spon mentioned Moon to Hedric who stuck around for the weekend when the Patroons were scheduled in.

Moon had a game-high 29 points and 12 rebounds. Hedric thanked Spon after the game. "He's everything you said he was coach."

Moon did the rest himself at the June tryout camp. According to Raps GM Bryan Colangelo, Moon wasn't just better than anyone else invited to the tryout: "He was head and shoulders better."

Following a potential career-altering weekend in which he was on the floor in crunch time against the Philadelphia 76ers in a tight game, and starting against a tough conference rival on Saturday in the Chicago Bulls, Moon says nothing has changed.

"I'm still the same Jamario," Moon said. "The same clown from Goodwater, Ala. It didn't change me none."

No, but it probably altered his basketball future plenty.


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