Moon's leap of faith

Jamario Moon will be fighting to be one of the starting five for the Raps. (Sun Media/Errol McGihon)

Jamario Moon will be fighting to be one of the starting five for the Raps. (Sun Media/Errol McGihon)

MIKE GANTER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:20 AM ET

OTTAWA -- Jamario Moon has some catching up to do.

Not so much on the court -- although there is room for that too -- but in the neighbourhood where he grew up.

Exactly three professional athletes have come out of Coosa Central High, a tiny high school in Rockford, Alabama, just south of Moon's hometown of Goodwater.

Adalius Thomas and Justin Tuck both moved on to play in the NFL. Thomas was a member of the Baltimore Ravens' 2000 Super Bowl championship club in his rookie year. Last season, his cousin Tuck, matched Thomas in the Super Bowl ring department, winning one with the New York Giants.

Moon feels the time is right to make it a perfect three-for-three for his alma mater.

"It's my turn now and we've got the players to do it with," Moon announced yesterday following a morning practice at Carleton University.

As large a leap as that seems, consider last season the Boston Celtics rocketed from 24-wins in '06-07 to a league-best 66 wins and an NBA title. Granted, they added Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to home-grown all-star Paul Pierce, but it's not like the Raptors haven't made significant changes too.

Moon's performance this season will go a long way towards determining how outrageous this boast two days into training camp really is.

Moon came out of nowhere last season to earn a spot on the Raptors roster and then claim a starting role on the team seven games into the season.

Head coach Sam Mitchell waffled a bit yesterday on whether Moon would be back in his role as the starting small forward.

"I really haven't decided yet," Mitchell said. "I've got a good idea but it's really going to depend on who we're playing."

At the very least, you can pencil Moon in as a member of the starting five for all eight games against the Charlotte Bobcats and the Chicago Bulls. Moon matches up well against both Gerald Wallace and Luol Deng respectively.

Jason Kapono is the other option here. A strong playoff against Orlando, after a disappointing regular season, has management hoping he can carry that momentum into this season.

Whether Andrea Bargnani sees significant, or any, playing time at the small forward position remains to be seen, but whatever the case, Moon is going to be a huge part of the mix.

"Moon stepped in and brought things to our team that we didn't have," Mitchell said.

That was last year. This year, with the arrival of Jermaine O'Neal, Moon's rebounding abilities may not be required as much, leaving more opportunities to take advantage of his assets on offence.

"I think it will free up Jamario to run the floor a little bit more," GM Bryan Colangelo said. "(Jamario) is probably our fastest athlete and if he can get out on the wing and we can utilize that aspect of his game to push the ball up the floor and get some easy scoring opportunities in transition. I think that will benefit him."

Moon focused almost exclusively on driving to the net in workouts this summer with the team's coaching staff in Las Vegas, Atlanta and in his hometown.

"We worked on the mid-range jumper a little, but mainly it was driving to the basket," Moon said. "There is going to be a lot of that this year. I have to get to the free-throw line a lot."

And if it brings a championship, Coosa Central can throw a basketball party for a change.


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