Janae Moore set an enviable standard for Dickinson State student-athletes. She was strong in the classroom, and fearless and physical on the basketball court. When it came to Blue Hawks, she was about as good as it got.
On Wednesday, DSU lost one of its shining examples of a student-athlete when Moore died in a car accident near her hometown of Sidney, Mont.
She was only 20 years old, would have been a junior for the Blue Hawks next season, and was well on her way to establishing an excellent career as she played a key role in trying to build the women’s basketball team into a perennial success.
Moore’s death is the second time in four years that DSU has had to deal with the untimely death of a standout athlete.
On Nov. 1, 2009, the DSU softball team lost three players — Kyrstin Gemar, Ashley Neufeld and Afton Williamson — when they drowned in Gemar’s vehicle after accidentally driving into a stock pond outside of Dickinson. The pain of those two days when the entire Dickinson community didn’t know if the women were alive or dead is still painful to think about and remains a surreal event in many people’s lives.
Moore’s death feels eerily similar, though it was much more abrupt. It’s an unbelievable event in which an amazing young person was taken from the world far too early.
It took Moore only two years to leave her mark on DSU women’s basketball.
Recruited to DSU out of Sidney High School in 2011 by former head coach Andre Goldberg, it was immediately noticeable that Moore had the talent to eventually be an impact player at the NAIA level. I often mentioned to KDIX radio announcer Jim Dahl, who does play-by-play for DSU’s home women’s basketball games, the Blue Hawks got a steal when they got Moore.
Though Moore was a role player her first year at DSU, she played differently than most of her teammates and as well as many players at the NAIA level. She always exhibited a willingness to drive the ball to the basket with her head up, regardless of who might be in her way, and was adept at sneaking around defenders en route to the hoop.
The seeds sown in her as a freshman flourished under first-year head coach Caleb Harrison during her sophomore season last winter.
Moore averaged team highs of 13.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game while shooting 51 percent from the field, which was second-best in the Frontier Conference, on her way to an all-Frontier honorable mention award and all-conference academic honors.
On Jan. 12, The Press published a feature story I wrote about Moore titled “Future is now.”
The story focused on how she was setting the standard to help turn around a team that hadn’t made it past the first round of the Dakota Athletic Conference Tournament since the 2009-10 season.
“It’s like setting a standard for the younger girls,” Moore told me when asked about her tenacious play.
Harrison took it a step further, calling Moore a NCAA Division I-caliber athlete and said, “It makes it easier to coach when you’ve got someone like that.”
Now, Harrison and the Blue Hawks face a difficult task: moving on without one of their leaders and figuring out how to replace what Moore meant to the team on and off the court.
The silver lining in this entire ordeal the Blue Hawks are going through is that Moore, in her life and during her short time with the team, set a standard of excellence for others to strive toward.
That is a legacy she is leaving, and that in itself is very enviable.
Monke is the managing editor and former sports editor of The Dickinson Press. Email him at email@example.com or tweet him at monkebusiness.