Antrone “Juice” Moore wasn’t quite sure where he was.
All he knew, he was staring down on his own body on a hospital bed with friends and family gathered around.
“I had an out of body experience where I was lifted and I saw the priest and my mother, the mother of my child and her mother and a couple of other people,” Moore said. “And they were praying. I still didn’t understand because at one point I was working out and the next point they were praying over me.”
Moore had just stepped off the treadmill at the Kennebec Valley YMCA in Augusta late in the morning of Sept. 26 when he felt a little dizzy.
“I said ‘I can’t walk,’ ” he recalled. “I didn’t know what was going on, it happened so fast. I was about to run noon ball.”
Moore never kept the date with his noontime basketball buddies. At age 36, he had suffered a stroke, and later that day was given a 50/50 chance of making it while lying on a bed at Maine Medical Center in Portland. He temporarily lost his vision after a blood vessel ruptured on the left side of his brain, but he could still hear.
The doctor said “ ‘take his daughter out of school, this may be it,’ ” he said.
Moore survived, despite laying in a coma for three weeks. He’s since undergone physical therapy in an effort to regain the use of his left side, has regained his speech and can get around on a limited basis.
Moore made a splash in the area 11 years ago when he played basketball for the University of Maine at Augusta, leading the team to one of its most successful seasons ever. The Moose finished 25-7 that season and placed fourth in the United State Collegiate Athletic Association’s national tournament. “Juice,” as he’s known to fans and friends, led the USCAA in scoring and was named to its Division II all-America team.
Over the past 10 years, the 6-foot-3 guard played for professional basketball teams from Mexico to Canada, hooking up with clubs like the New Jersey Squires, Lake County Lakers, Mexico Admirals, Windy City Monarchs and Harlem Ambassadors. He played for the University of Maine at Presque Isle for a couple of seasons before transferring to UMA, along with several of his fellow Chicagoans.
He returned to Augusta last summer “because I wanted to be a part of my daughter’s life. Also I wanted to have a basketball team here. I wanted to make a difference.”
Moore had set up a basketball clinic with the Augusta Rec Department for early October but that was derailed when he had his stroke. He also had plans for an AAU team and was seeking sponsors. He coached a team called Kings Elite in Fort Worth, Texas, and has connections in Chicago.
Moore is a big believer in conditioning and often showed the sort of shape he was in by beating players down the court outdoors at Williams in Augusta or at the YMCA. The name he selected for his team was The Juice Express and as it implies he wants his players to get up and down the court quickly.
“I’m going to bring the inner city game up here,” he said last fall. “A lot of people won’t agree with me, but the game has changed.”
Moore would also like to hold a Pro-Am tournament in central Maine and do it “Chicago style” with a DJ, a commentator and a halftime show.
“I think if you bring a different flavor to Maine it will work,” he said.
Moore’s plans are on hold, but not for long. He’s meeting with the Augusta Rec Department next week and hopes to begin coaching youngsters this season. He’s also working on getting his mobility back and vows to get back on the basketball court some day.
Life wasn’t easy for Moore who grew up in the same South Side Chicago neighborhood as former Celtic Antoine Walker. He was raised primarily by his grandmother although both parents are now in his life.
“When she was alive I didn’t get into any trouble,” Moore said. “She was my angel. I didn’t give up. A lot of my friends are dead or in jail.”
High blood pressure led to Moore’s stroke and it runs in his family. He’s already been turned down for Medicare and Social Security disability, he believes because of his age, but remains determined and remarkably upbeat considering his circumstances. He’s living with church members who took him after his stroke and is determined to come all the way back and contribute.
“I haven’t had a bad life at all,” he said. “That’s why I want to give back to these kids.”
Gary Hawkins — 621-5638