Officially, Wendell Moore Jr. narrowed his list of finalists to four schools including North Carolina, N.C. State and Wake Forest before signing with Duke.
But in reality, he has been committed to Duke for about the past decade.
The Cox Mill High (N.C.) senior had several items with Duke’s colors and logo growing up, including a couple jackets and a sweatsuit.
“For Christmas one year he asked for a Duke rug,” said his father. “He had Duke Christmas tree ornaments, a Santa and stocking. His favorite pair of shorts was Duke shorts. He did a TV interview in seventh grade with those Duke shorts on. That was his school. It’s always been about Duke.”
How did Moore, who has lived in Concord, N.C., since he was 5, become such a big Duke fan?
“I saw them on TV one day and I just thought they were really good,” Moore said. “Ever since then they kind of became my favorite team.”
He has watched every game this year through TV, the ESPN App or ACC Network.
The Blue Devils have a quartet of freshman stars in Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish and Tre Jones, though it’s possible all four will move on to the NBA before Moore arrives next season.
But Moore is part of a 2019 Duke recruiting class that is again ranked among the best in the nation with Vernon Carey, a 6-10 center from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Boogie Ellis, a 6-2 guard from San Diego.
“I’m kind of trying to feel out the team for next year, including the freshmen that are coming in – myself, Vernon and Boogie – and just maybe the freshmen that will be leaving and just how we all fit in,” Moore said. “I think us three together, we can do some good things at Duke next year.”
Moore still has a lot to accomplish in high school beforehand, including Monday at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, where Cox Mill faces Bishop O’Connell in the Beach Ball Classic’s fifth-place game at 3:30 p.m.
Moore, who is 6-foot-6, is the top-ranked player in North Carolina and a top 20 player nationally.
Thus far in the Beach Ball, Moore has posted 35 points, 14 rebounds, four steals and three assists against University (W.Va.), 23 points and 11 rebounds against Scott County (Ky.) and 38 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and two blocks against Archbishop Stepinac, sending the game to overtime with three free throws with 19 seconds to play.
“As a player he really is a Swiss Army knife,” Cox Mill coach Jody Barbee said. “He can do so many things. You’re not going to find a kid that can play both ends, an all-around player that will be willing to play both ends, and he does a good job of both.”
Moore has been on the Cox Mill varsity since his freshman year and the Chargers have won the past two North Carolina Class 3A state championships. They’re 10-1 this season and ranked No. 24 in the USA Today Super 25.
Last year the Chargers had Leaky Black, who transferred in for his senior season before moving on to the University of North Carolina.
This year Moore and 6-7 senior Caleb Stone-Carrawell, a UNC Charlotte signee, have been the team’s primary stars and leaders.
“Wendell has been there for four years and I kind of put it on him as a freshman to be a leader at a young age,” Barbee said. “For him to live up to all the pressure and all the hype it speaks volumes of him and his character.
“. . . He’s just a great overall kid. He’s very humble, works hard every day, he’s a pleasure to coach. He’s been like that all four years. I’ve known him for five and a half, six years now and he’s still the same kid.”
Moore carries a 4.0 GPA and plans to study either medicine or business at Duke. He spoke last week to students at Cox Mill Elementary School who were graduating from the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program about making the right decisions in life. “I enjoy giving back to where I came from,” said Moore, who graduated from the DARE program himself.
“He’s humble,” said his mother, Marie. “He really is a mentor to the kids in our community. He makes good choices.”
Wendell Moore Sr. is 6-6 and Marie Moore is an even 6 feet. She said doctors expect her son to grow possibly a couple more inches to reach 6-8. His game will continue to grow, as well.
“I try to grow in every aspect of the game daily,” Moore said. “Whether I can get better shooting, dribbling or even just like a mindset thing. I just try to improve every day on something different.”