He’s bounced balls off buildings and through the hoop. Made long-distance shots over intersections hundreds of feet away. Jumped 360 degrees in the air, put the ball between his legs and hit full-court shots behind his head. Sank heaves while leaping atop a fire hydrant or off a metal fence.
The higher the degree of difficulty, the better for Larry Moreno. It’s his own personal game of H-O-R-S-E he keeps on trying to top.
“I don’t know how he makes them,” said Glenn Braica, his college coach at St. Francis Brooklyn. “People seem to be really interested. Some of the shots are incredible. Just amazing.”
In the past two months, the sophomore guard has become somewhat of a social media sensation while maintaining social-distancing practices during the coronavirus pandemic. His Instagram followers have risen from a few thousand to just less than 31,000. His shots have been featured on ESPN.com, SportsCenter’s Instagram and Facebook Top 10, Overtime, House of Highlights and FIBA. He was the subject of a segment on NBC 4 New York News with Bruce Beck. Stephon Marbury has commented on his Instagram posts and he can count Drake among his followers. All because of the trick shots he puts on his account.
“It’s pretty cool a lot of people support me,” said the 5-foot-11 Moreno, who is finally healthy after a torn labrum in his hip required surgery in January 2019. “It’s just amazing that I’m getting noticed by people all over the world.
“One thing I also love about it is it’s bringing attention to my school. I represent my school basically through everything. I try to wear our sweat suit when I make my trick shots, so everybody knows I go to St. Francis College.”
Moreno, known as “Light Cheese Larry” and the “Dominican Mamba,” always had a knack for hitting difficult shots. One day after a high school practice, he kicked a ball in from half-court. He was frequently accurate from half-court after workouts. Over the summer, he began making videos that were reposted on a couple of websites, but once school started in September, he put that hobby on hold.
When St. Francis’ season ended on March 4, he had more free time. On March 25, he went viral for the first time for a half-court shot he intentionally left short, banking it in on a bounce. With the stay-at-home orders in effect, Moreno had nothing but time. He started going out early in the morning every day with his younger brother, Dangelo Meza, filming him, both wearing a mask and gloves. Fortunately for him, the rims at the courts near his East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, home haven’t been taken down. Sometimes, he insisted, he makes the shot on his first try. Other times, it takes several attempts.
“I felt like during this time it was definitely perfect, because everybody has nothing to do but be on social media,” he said. “I enjoy the fact the shots I make are incredible shots that people would probably never make in their life.”
Braica raved about Moreno, 19, the person, citing his spirit during two tough seasons of dealing with injury and willingness to burn a year of eligibility last season because he wanted to help the seniors when so many teammates went down due to injury. The plan was to apply for a second medical redshirt as the hip just wasn’t ready on a consistent basis. But by early February, St. Francis was shorthanded, and Moreno was feeling good. He went into Braica’s office and told him he wanted to play.
In the next game, Moreno came off the bench to score 19 points in a victory over Mount St. Mary’s. It wasn’t a straight line of progress. There were days his hip still wasn’t right. But he contributed, scoring eight points in a road win at rival LIU Brooklyn and notched eight points in a heartbreaking NEC Tournament opening-round loss at eventual champion Robert Morris. It was flashes of the player Braica envisioned when Moreno committed, the guy who scored 2,000 points in an illustrious high school career at Brooklyn High School for Law & Technology, who led his school to its first ever city title as a senior.
“If he’s 100 percent, he’s a high-level guard in our league I think,” Braica said.
For now, Moreno is known for his trick shots. It’s why his Instagram numbers have shot up. But soon, he believes his prowess on a basketball court in a traditional game will catch up now that he’s healthy.
“By the time I graduate,” Moreno said, “I feel like people will know me for both.”
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