GULFPORT — The short, skinny kid stood at the edge of the playground. He waited forever to play.
Nine bigger players were chosen for the two sides.
There was no 10th. Not unless someone asked Dallas if he wanted to play.
Dallas Moore was the last one chosen in pickup games growing up, so he has always had something to prove.
“That happened quite a bit,” Moore said. “People would overlook me.”
Every night had to be a revelation. The audition never ended.
He knew his game had to be based on speed and cunning. The game in the air had to be changed to a game on the floor.
He started at Boca Ciega as more of a curiosity, a 5-foot-6 freshman with a feathery touch from the outside.
Now he is a 5-11 every-night dynamo who not only carries the flag for the vertically challenged but is the quintessential leader of the Pirates.
With the quickness to keep defenders off balance and the uncanny knack to shoot over the tallest opponents, Moore is averaging a county-best 28 points. He has 1,935 career points and can reach the 2,000 plateau with two more solid outings.
That will be a tall task considering Boca Ciega (18-8) travels to face Jesuit (26-1) in tonight’s Class 5A region quarterfinal.
“It’s wild to think it’s almost over,” Moore said. “When you start out in ninth grade and the season ends, you’re okay with it because you know you still have three more years.
“But it’s crazy to think this is the last time I could be putting on a Boca Ciega uniform.”
Moore forged his game on the AAU circuit and played right away as a freshman, making his mark from the perimeter.
Draining 3-pointers really wasn’t all that difficult. It was getting open that was tough.
Moore constantly battled dogged defenders intent on denying him an open look at the basket. It took guts, guile, maybe even a screen or two from a teammate, before he could get the ball in his hands.
Once Moore did, he was deadly.
The 3-pointer became Moore’s equalizer. He made jumpers from both sides of the court, off the dribble, from behind screens, in heavy congestion. As a sophomore, he made 11 3-pointers in a game against Bradenton Bayshore.
But confirming his status as the county’s premier long-range shooter wasn’t enough. Moore knew he had to diversify his game to become a better scorer and get better looks from colleges.
It did not hurt that he also had a significant growth spurt.
“I remember Dallas went to the doctor and they measured him before his junior year,” said his father, Dexter Moore. “He grew like 4 inches.”
Instead of stepping back to score, Moore started weaving through — and into — defenders.
“Dallas started out as a mighty-mite,” Boca Ciega coach Randy Shuman said. “He’s contributed every year. But we knew we needed to add to his game so he wouldn’t be so one-dimensional.
“He started driving more to the basket last year, but he paid a price. He had a bruised hip and bruised back. He took a beating, but he stayed aggressive.”
Moore, who signed with North Florida, continued to add to his repertoire in the offseason, spending countless hours in the gym. The work paid off. In the 5A, District 12 semifinals, Moore tied a career best by scoring 42 to beat rival Lakewood in a game the Pirates needed in order to make the playoffs for the second straight season.
“I think Dallas has done so well because of his work ethic,” Dexter Moore said. “He really works at everything and is determined. I think that started from being small and not being picked for games by the older guys growing up. He always felt he had to prove something. I think he still feels that. That’s what makes him so good.”