Back in March, just before his team was about to play for its first N.C. High School Athletic Association state championship, Cox Mill High boys’ basketball star Wendell Moore said it would be hard to imagine his sophomore year going any better.
Well, a few days after that, Moore scored 29 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead Cox Mill to a 3A state title. A few weeks later, Moore was named the N.C. Basketball Coaches Association state player of the year for all public schools.
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This week, Moore added a cherry to the top of his memorable season, when he was one of 12 players named to the USA Basketball U16 men’s national team. Moore and the Americans are training in Colorado Springs, Colo., and will play in the 2017 FIBA Americas U16 championship June 14-18 in Formosa, Argentina.
Moore, a 6-foot-6, 205-pound wing, said he was overwhelmed when he received the news.
“The whole 16 (finalists) were in the lounge,” Moore said, “and just hearing my name was crazy.”
Moore’s name has been on the national radar for awhile. By 13, he was considered the nation’s top player in his grade by several publications. USA Today ran a story with a headline, “Is Wendell Moore the best 13-year-old hooper since (NBA lottery pick) Andrew Wiggins?”
Moore’s rankings have slipped since then. He’s No. 32 in Scout.com’s latest update for the 2019 class, but his former AAU coach, Andy Poplin of Chris Paul’s travel team organization, believes Moore’s future is infinitely bright.
“He’s just a tough customer,” Poplin told the Observer in March. “I think he’s (a future NBA) lottery pick. He’s got all the tools. God’s given him so much, and he’s so humble. He’s just got all the parts.”
In high school last season, Moore averaged 25 points, nine rebounds and five assists. He’s scored 1,339 points in 62 varsity games in two years. This summer, playing on the Nike travel circuit, the EYBL, Moore averages 14.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and three assists.
“He just makes everybody around him so much better,” said Cox Mill coach Jody Barbee. “He’s very humble. He doesn’t want to be in the spotlight. And he’s just getting started. He’s way beyond his years.”
Last year, Moore became only the second freshman to receive a scholarship offer from North Carolina coach Roy Williams. Moore, who said his recruiting remains open, has offers from the Tar Heels, Charlotte, Florida, N.C. State, Syracuse, Tennessee and Wake Forest, among others. He is being recruited by Duke, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio State, Virginia and Virginia Tech.
Moore said playing against some of the nation’s best players in USA Basketball camps and now against some of the world’s elite players while playing for his country will only make him better.
“It’s been great here just being able to play against players this good and learning from a great coaching staff,” Moore said. “I found myself doing things other players weren’t, like getting the loose balls and the little things.
“My role on the team is (doing) a little of everything - guarding and just running the floor and making open shots.”