State Title Defense and Playing for Duke Await Nike Hoop Summit Forward Wendell Moore Jr. in 2019
Wendell Moore Jr. is squarely focused on helping his Cox Mills High School team win a third consecutive North Carolina 3A state title.
But, forgive him for looking ahead a little bit, too.
The 6-foot-6 forward from Charlotte, North Carolina, who last year reached the 1,000-point plateau faster than anyone in Cabarrus County public school history, already has signed on to continue his academic and athletic career at Duke University next fall.
Once this high school season is over, Moore will rejoin some other exceptional high school players that he teamed with to win the 2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championship and the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup.
On Friday, April 12, Moore and his teammates from across the country once again will represent the United States, this time in the 22nd annual Nike Hoop Summit on Friday, April 12 at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. (Tickets)
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity, to being around some great people and great teammates,” Moore said. “And, I’m especially looking forward to some of the great competition we’re going up against.”
Indeed, the USA is taking on a group of world stars in the game, and they’ll need complete efforts from players such as Moore, who averaged 8.4 points and 3.0 rebounds per game in leading the USA to the FIBA U17 World Cup title this past summer.
“For me to be a part of the history of the Nike Hoop Summit is really big,” Moore said, rattling off a list of current NBA players who have played in the game, including former NBA rookies of the year Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Moore, a small forward with an impressive 6-foot-11 wingspan, is a formidable defensive presence who welcomes the physical aspect of the game.
“My main thing is basically to leave my mark wherever I can,” Moore said. “I had goals of wanting to be a two-time state champion and being the fastest to reach 1,000 points. But I had great teammates. It’s because of those teammates that we worked hard and achieved our goals.”
Last year, Moore averaged 25.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in leading Cox Mills to a second straight state title. Another title could be on the horizon. His Chargers were 25-2 heading into the final game in February.
He says his experiences with USA Basketball have helped him improve in every aspect of life, especially after dominating on the high school stage in North Carolina.
Working under longtime USA Basketball coach Don Showalter the past two years and winning gold medals has improved him as a person as well.
“It’s a big thing for me going from being the best on the team to being a player on the team, and that has made me a better player and a better person,” Moore said.
“Winning those championships are two of the best times of my life,” he continued.
“Being surrounded by great players and great coaches has made me a better human being. I’ve learned how to treat people. I’ve learned a bunch of different life skills, like something as simple as sitting at the dinner table, to sit up and eat correctly. Team bonding.”
One of the strategies Showalter employed to build friendship and teamwork during the 2017 and 2018 competitions was to limit the time players had to spend on their smartphones. Less time distracted with the phones meant their valuable time was put to better, more productive use.
“At first it was kind of hard,” Moore admitted. “We’re kids and used to being on our phones. But not using them, it made us spend more time together.”
Still, it hasn’t separated Moore from his phone altogether yet, or from doing things like playing Fortnite, NBA 2K19 or going to the movies with friends.
And after the Nike Hoop Summit, he’ll be a Blue Devil, playing for the legendary Mike Krzyzewski, the only coach with an NCAA championship, FIBA World Cup and Olympic gold medal on his resume.
While Moore cites academic and athletic reputation for selecting Duke, he’s also been a Duke fan almost his whole life. He recalled one Christmas asking for a Duke rug, not to mention the Duke Christmas tree ornament and Duke-themed Santa and stocking he already owned. He also wore Duke shorts the first time he was interviewed as a seventh-grader.
Basketball always ran in the family. His father, Wendell Moore Sr., also is 6-6 and played basketball at Christopher Newport University in Virginia. A cousin, Derrick Reid, played at Virginia Commonwealth University. Marie, Wendell Jr.’s mom, was a high-level handball player. His choice of Duke makes her very happy.
“Getting an education first was always something my mom stressed,” he said. “Sooner or later, basketball’s going to stop, and you need something to fall back on.”
He considers his dad, cousin and grandfather Joe Lott, along with trainer Dominic Bishop, as his inner circle of go-to people that have helped him with improving his game.
Come April, his go-to circle will be his friends and family at USA Basketball, representing their country in the Nike Hoop Summit, and he can’t wait.