Family life kept NBA hopeful E'Twaun Moore off the streets

2011-06-18T22:00:00Z 2012-08-18T22:15:20Z Family life kept NBA hopeful E'Twaun Moore off the streetsBy Al Hamnik, (219) 933-4154
June 18, 2011 10:00 pm  • 

EAST CHICAGO | It's a memory burned into E'Twaun Moore's psyche and best served by walking the straight and narrow.

The 2009 murder of best friend and former E.C. Central teammate Donte Brown, 21, so rocked Moore's world that the Purdue basketball star gave his first Big Ten championship ring to Brown's father at the funeral as a token of the boys' friendship.

Death and violence are close bedfellows in this city of steel and oil, particularly along Guthrie Street where Moore and his family live.

Edna and Ezell Sr. raised E'Twaun, brother Ezell Jr. and sister Ekeisha to avoid the drugs and gangs in one of East Chicago's roughest neighborhoods.

Donte Jamar Brown wasn't as fortunate.

"For me, it wasn't difficult if you just kept your head on the right path and did things the right way," E'Twaun said. "But it definitely is challenging growing up in a city with a lot of drugs and gangs.

"With people doing all the wrong things, you can easily be influenced. Luckily, I stayed away from it as much as I could."

A strong family life and successful basketball career prevented the Academic All-American from stumbling in the classroom as well.

The 6-foot-4 guard and Purdue's No. 3 career scorer averaged 18 points and 5.1 rebounds per game last season -- both second best on the team. He finished as the program's career leader in 3-pointers (243) while playing in 140 consecutive games.

With Thursday's NBA Draft fast approaching, Moore is hoping to be a first-round selection.

His offensive game, willingness to play defense and unquestionable character could make him an attractive pick for some teams in what's being called a "mediocre" draft.

Survival on the mean streets

"I still live in one of the worst places in Indiana, on Guthrie, but with all the people doing crazy stuff, I was fine," Moore said of a neighborhood where gunshots and police sirens are common at night.

The 2009 stabbing death of Donte Brown at the Harborside Apartments in the 3400 block of Guthrie Street left Moore questioning life in general.

"That was pretty tough. He was my best friend and growing up, we were always with each other all the time," Moore said. "If you're not guided the right way, all you see is the negative and you think that's the right thing to do.

"Hopefully, you have someone to help you or you can say on your own: 'I want better.'"

Moore said there are many positive stories in East Chicago and on Guthrie Street, not just his, that offer hope to the youth.

"I happened to go to college and play ball so you see me more on TV and stuff. But (succeeding) is not impossible for anyone," he said.

Family ties and values

"E'Twaun went out but not at night," said Ezell Moore Sr. "When it started getting dark, we had a balcony on the third floor and he'd go up there. I didn't want him going out at night. That's when stuff happens.

"E'Twaun took (Brown's death) real hard. He really don't get too emotional but that hurt him real bad. He tried to get him straight. He tried to get him to play ball, too, but he just wouldn't stay in school long enough to stay on the team.

"Donte was just a street kid. That's what he was."

Gangs continue to be a problem in East Chicago.

"You got the Latin Kings. You got the Disciples. Every gang there is, there's one of them around here," Ezell Sr. said. "We didn't play that gang stuff. I told (E'Twaun) he's got a gang already. You got your brother and sister and your mom and dad. That's your gang."

Ezell Sr. said neighborhood gangs actually respected E'Twaun, his celebrity status, extensive travels with the Purdue team, and superior talent on the court.

It was as if they were living vicariously through him.

Gone but not to be forgotten

In his four years at Purdue, Moore never gave coach Matt Painter a reason to worry about him on the court or in the classroom.

"What separates E'Twaun from some other guys are the people around him. He's always had good people around him that have a lot of substance," Painter said. "And people who are 'shady' around him, he's separated himself from those people.

"He's always been a good judge of character and that's so important especially now because the NBA really looks at that. They want somebody to come in and not give them problems, to show up early and stay late, and who'll listen to them."

The last East Chicago player to have an NBA career was 1971 Washington grad Ulysses "Junior" Bridgeman, who spent most of his 12 seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks.

In its mock draft, had the Bulls drafting Moore 43rd overall as a shooting guard to take some pressure off league MVP Derrick Rose.

Painter said he's got his fingers crossed Moore's name will be called on June 23.

"I think E'Twaun's one of those persistent guys who just keeps coming and will have a successful professional career," Painter said.

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