Although he was surrounded by joyous teammates, Devon Moore couldn’t wait to get out of the cramped dressing room in UD Arena Wednesday night.
He had a phone call to make and he needed to hear the person on the other end of the line.
His James Madison team had just beaten LIU Brooklyn, 68-55, and would now play No. 1 seed Indiana on Friday here in Dayton. The victory was the Dukes’ first in the NCAA tournament in 19 years and Moore knew one person needed to hear all of this as soon as she could.
It would be a last-minute dose of good medicine for Carolyn Moore, Devon’s mother, before undergoing a bone marrow transplant this morning at the Ohio State University Medical Center.
“When I call my dad here in a couple of minutes I know I’ll definitely hear her in the background screaming,” he said with a smile. “She’ll be so excited. It’ll be just such a great feeling to hear her voice.”
Devon grew up in Columbus, the youngest of four kids, and he said he has a special bond with his mom.
When doctors discovered a cancerous, golf ball-sized tumor behind Carolyn’s left ear last fall, she called her son, who was just getting ready for his redshirt senior season with the Dukes.
The news — Carolyn had multiple myeloma — melted Devon and he didn’t think he could go on playing basketball at his Harrisonburg, Va., school while his mother underwent her ordeal up in Columbus.
“She told me I couldn’t come home,” he said as he sat at his locker Wednesday night. “She told me this was ‘our dream’ and we definitely had to keep fighting, to keep pushing.”
They made a pact with each other and dubbed the season “The Fight.”
And fight they did the past few months.
Carolyn underwent surgery to have the tumor removed, but the growth soon returned and she had another operation on New Year’s Eve. Along the way she’s gone through sessions of radiation and chemotherapy and now she’ll have the bone marrow transplant..
“It’s definitely been a roller-coaster year,” Devon said.” I miss my mom. It’s hard not having her on the sideline, not hearing her voice and talking to her every day. A lot of people wouldn’t have been able to go through what I did this year.”
He didn’t just get through the year, he played exceptionally.
The 6-foot-4 point guard from Northland High School — he was recruited by Dayton, Wright State, Akron and a few other Ohio schools, he said — averaged 11.6 points and won third team All-Colonial Athletic Association honors this season,. He was part of the All-CAA tournament team, too.
He’s started four years at JMU (he missed one season with a knee surgery) and has scored 1,317 points and dished 498 assists. Down the stretch this season, no Dukes player has performed better.
In early March he surprised his mom with a trip home. She was in the hospital in Columbus and he walked in carrying a bouquet of roses.
After James Madison beat Northeastern in the CAA title game on March 11 and captured the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, Devon had his teammates sign a basketball and he sent it along with his CAA tournament cap and a shirt to his mom.
Wednesday night he said he had at least 20 people, including his siblings, in the stands. His dad Leroy was back at the hospital with Carolyn.
Although his line in the box score wouldn’t jump out at you — five points and six assists in 33 minutes — this wasn’t a night about statistics for Devon Moore.
It was about making that phone call to his mom, who, by the way, was celebrating her 56th birthday Wednesday.
“This was one game I definitely wanted her to be able to see, but I know she’s at home fighting,” he said. “I’m happy we won. Instead of calling her on a bad note, I can call on a good note and say we won.
“I just can’t wait to make that call and hear her voice. I want to tell her she was right.
“All that hard work, all that fighting paid off.”