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Trail Blazers guard Taze Moore signs with CEBL’s Vancouver Bandits

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VANCOUVER — Taze Moore doesn’t take basketball for granted, so when a unique opportunity to play summer ball came up, he grabbed it.

After playing four NBA games for the Portland Trail Blazers this year, the 25-year-old guard is bringing his skills to the Vancouver Bandits of the Canadian Elite Basketball League.

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Coming to B.C. is another stop in Moore’s quest to secure an NBA contract.

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“I’m almost there,” he said in a phone interview from Dallas, Texas, on Wednesday. “I’m still on my journey, I’m still young.”

The journey has been a winding one.

Hailing from Southaven, Miss., the six-foot-five, 195-pound athlete grew up playing football and street ball before basketball took him to California State University, Bakersfield.

There, Moore shattered bones in his right leg during a fast-break dunk, an injury that threatened to end his athletic career.

“I know the game can be taken away from you at any moment,” he said of the experience. “A lot of people might not know that.”

The next three years were filled with five surgeries, endless rehab and frustrating setbacks, all of which made him more resilient, Moore said.

“I’m just one of those guys where I won’t quit,” he said. “If both legs were broken and we were in a war, I’d try to crawl somewhere. That’s just me.”

Moore transferred to the University of Houston and played for a Cougars side that played in the Elite Eight at the 2022 NCAA men’s basketball tournament. He averaged 10.4 points and 4.9 rebounds that season, and capped it all by winning the NCAA slam dunk contest.

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After going undrafted, Moore turned pro in 2022. He played for the Brooklyn Nets and Dallas Mavericks’ summer league squads, then joined the Rip City Remix, the Trail Blazers’ NBA G League affiliate.

He was called up to Portland twice during the 2023-24 season and put on a show on Sunday, scoring 12 points — including a stunning dunk — and contributing eight rebounds in the Trail Blazers’ regular-season finale.

Getting a taste of NBA life was full of surreal moments, Moore said.

“You know when you’re a kid and you see people on TV and you never think you’ll talk to them, and then one day you talk to them and they’re actually like normal people? It’s like that,” he said.

Moore found himself slightly starstruck back on Jan. 21 when the Trail Blazers took on LeBron James and the Lakers in Los Angeles.

Going up against the superstar was “surreal,” Moore said.

“Certain people, they have a certain glow, a certain aura about them. That’s him. You see him, there’s like bright lights behind him, music in the background,” he said.

“Where I’m from, people don’t get to see much. So me seeing one of the greats — eye to eye, I’m in his vicinity, he’s in mine — it was great.”

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Now Moore is looking to continue growing his game this summer with the Bandits. He decided to come North after Kyle Julius, Vancouver’s head coach and general manager, reached out.

“It made me feel appreciated,” Moore said, adding that he believes Julius is someone he can learn from.

Moore described himself as an “energy guy” and an aggressive, athletic player.

“I like to kind of muck up the game and make things kind of fun, run around guys and things like that,” he said. “I’m just trying to be a disruptor slash energy guy for the whole season.”

Everyone with the Bandits is “incredibly excited” to work with Moore, Julius said.

“He is one of the best athletes I have ever seen and his overall skillset and feel for the game is even better,” he said. “We think he is the perfect addition to our already strong roster because he will also have the opportunity to be a leader and push us towards competitive greatness.”

The Bandits will open their season with a home tilt against the Montreal Alliance on May 23.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 18, 2024.

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