The basketball journey of Bill “Rocky” Huff-Moore was fueled by passion and opportunity.
“My basketball life has been very good to me,” Huff-Moore said.
A disciple of legendary Waterloo High School hoops coach Larry Henson, it’s only fitting the two are being inducted together into the lllinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame later this year.
Huff-Moore was inducted into the WHS Athletic Hall of Fame in 2016.
Born and raised in East St. Louis, Huff-Moore moved to Waterloo in fifth grade. He used the gyms and outdoor basketball rims in town as an escape from a challenging life at home.
“Basketball gave me an outlet from my home life,” he said. “I channeled my energy to basketball. I just had a passion for it. All you need is a ball, you, a rim and a hoop, you know?”
Huff-Moore remembers watching a WHS varsity basketball game while in junior high and being immediately drawn to Henson’s organized, disciplined coaching style on the court.
“I thought he was just sharp as heck,” Huff-Moore said. “I knew I was gonna play for him some day. It was a dream for me to play for Coach Henson.”
It was a dream that had to wait until Huff-Moore’s junior year, although he thought he could’ve contributed as a sophomore.
The problem was Henson had eight seniors on his 1970-71 squad.
“I was better than his guards, I felt,” Huff-Moore said. “I was kind of a cocky kid. I lacked no confidence. I knew that if he would give me the opportunity, I would thrive.”
As a junior, Huff-Moore averaged 21 points per game and was second team all-Cahokia Conference.
During his senior season in 1972-73, Huff-Moore was conference player of the year and earned fourth team all-state honors by averaging nearly 24 points to go along with seven rebounds and six assists per game despite facing constant double-teams.
In conference play, Huff-Moore averaged nearly 30 points per game.
“I upped my level against those teams,” he said. “I had an extra fire.”
At 6-foot-1, Huff-Moore said he became a good rebounder by studying the way shots were taken and angled off the rim to time his jumps and get into a good position for offensive rebounds.
“I had a knack for getting the rebound and put-back,” he said. “It really helped my scoring.”
Henson said Huff-Moore is at the top of his list of the best basketball players in WHS history.
“He was determined to play for me,” Henson said. “You couldn’t keep the guy out of the gym. He was a total, 110 percent gym rat.”
Huff-Moore credited his success on the court to his tough-minded nature.
“I was scrappy and aggressive,” he said. “That’s the way we were raised.”
He also gave high praise to his cousin, Denny Davis, who was a teammate on the 1973 hoops squad.
Davis, who like Huff-Moore is a member of the WHS Athletic Hall of Fame, was a baseball standout at WHS.
“He really pushed me to the limits,” Huff-Moore said, saying the two fed off each other with competitive fire.
Huff-Moore, 65, said he is forever thankful to Henson and his late wife Pat for helping him get through his high school days.
“They took me in like one of their kids,” he said. “They’re like family to me.”
Huff-Moore’s success at WHS landed him at Mineral Area College in Park Hills, Mo., where he played alongside the likes of future NBA player Sonny Parker.
He became a team captain his second year at Mineral Area College, and the team won a regional title.
It was at this junior college that Huff-Moore set a path toward the next chapter in his life.
Mineral Area College head basketball coach Bob Sechrest pushed Huff-Moore to apply the same passion on the court to his studies. Henson had given him the same advice in high school, Huff-Moore said, but this was a fresh voice.
“Up until then, I was happy to be an average student,” Huff-Moore said. “That’s when the light came on.”
Huff-Moore transferred to Northeast Missouri State University, where he played for former WHS hoops coach Willard Sims. There, he earned an honorable mention all-conference nod but most importantly, earned a degree in health and kinesiology.
It was then Huff-Moore set his sights on a coaching career.
One of his first key connections was legendary coach Charlie Spoonhour. Huff-Moore played against Spoonhour’s Moberly Junior College teams while at Mineral Area College.
Spoonhour helped Huff-Moore with an academic scholarship to Louisiana Tech University, where he earned a master’s degree and served as a graduate assistant in 1978.
“I went down there on a mission,” he said.
This mission soon took him to California, where his reputation for being a gym rat and lover of the sport landed him an assistant coach position at Pacific Palisades High School in 1981-82. There, he coached future NBA star and current head coach Steve Kerr.
He sustained a near-fatal vehicle crash in November 1981, but recovered and found himself serving as a volunteer assistant coach under Stan Morrison at the University of Southern California.
“He was really creative and brilliant,” Huff-Moore said.
It was there that Huff-Moore took in such innovative programs as study table and adopt-a-player that he would take with him to future landing spots as assistant coach and head coach for various high schools and colleges in California.
Eventually, Huff-Moore became head coach at John Muir High School in Pasadena, Calif., where he won four Pacific League championships and California Interscholastic Federation titles in 1993 and 1996.
He was named Los Angeles City Coach of the Year in 1993.
At John Muir, Huff-Moore coached Jacque Vaughn. As a senior in 1993, Vaughn was awarded the Dial Award as the nation’s top male high school scholar-athlete, becoming the first basketball player ever to win that award.
Vaughn went on to star at the University of Kansas and enjoyed a long NBA career.
In six years at John Muir, Huff-Moore had 38 of his players earn scholarships.
From there, Huff-Moore served as head coach at Pasadena City College and later got involved in Amateur Athletic Union basketball in California.
He’s currently helping out with Prodigy Elite AAU led by Cameron Murray, the younger brother of former NBA player Tracy Murray.
“They’re keeping me on the sidelines,” Huff-Moore said.
A close friend of Huff-Moore is Greg Newell, who is a longtime executive at Converse. He is also the son of late legendary hoops coach Pete Newell, who won the national title with the University of California in 1959 and guided the United States to the 1960 Olympics gold medal.
The two became friends at USC in 1982.
“I just knew he had this hunger,” Greg Newell said of Huff-Moore. “When he came out here to California, he sought out certain coaches. It formed his direction as to a philosophy as a coach. The success was a byproduct of what he absorbed.”
Key to that philosophy is for players to understand the importance of team and community along with all the hard work on and off the court.
“Always end your day on a make, no matter what,” Huff-Moore stressed. “Coach Henson and others along the way taught me to always be the best version of yourself in everything.”