Duke Basketball: A peek into the future of first 2019 signee Wendell Moore

Duke basketball mascot (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Duke basketball mascot (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

Wendell Moore made official his spot on the 2019-20 Duke basketball roster by signing his letter of intent on Friday, and now it’s time to board a time machine to see what his future in Durham will look like.

At the beginning of October, no 2019 prospects had yet to announce a commitment to play for the Duke basketball program. Sure, it was still early, yet several top targets had already rejected offers from coach Mike Krzyzewski; plus, never before in the past decade had it taken the staff beyond the beginning of September to snag the first recruit for the next season’s incoming class.

But just as fans — many understandably expecting instant recruiting successes this year after being spoiled by unbelievably stacked classes in recent years — were about to merge onto Panic Blvd., Wendell Moore saved the day.

The five-star small forward (ranked No. 23 on the 247Sports Composite), who signed his national letter of intent on Friday, announced on Oct. 8 that he would be joining #TheBrotherhood. Four-star 2019 combo guard Boogie Ellis (No. 35) followed suit a month later; Ellis is also expected to make his decision official during the fall signing period, which ends on Nov. 21.

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As for what’s next, the Blue Devils do have a reasonable chance to receive verbal commitments from five-star big men Vernon Carey Jr. (No. 2) and Isaiah Stewart (No. 5) by the end of this month.

However, there’s also a reasonable chance both of those guys will end up elsewhere. Same goes for five-star forward Matthew Hurt (No. 6), who isn’t expected to decide on a college until the spring.

And if the coaches do miss on the rest of their five-star targets, Moore would be considered the most talented player in their 2019 class. In addition, the Concord, N.C., native could be tasked with saving a season shortly after moving to Durham next fall.

That’s because the 6-foot-5, 210-pound slasher could potentially be the go-to guy as a freshman on a squad that will almost certainly be without current freshmen standouts Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, and Cam Reddish — most draft boards have all three being top-five picks come June — and possibly without fellow freshman Tre Jones (the starting point guard’s decision likely in part rests on whether this year’s team cuts down nets in April).

Even if Jones comes back and the coaches receive commitments from one or more of Carey Jr., Stewart, and Hurt, Moore would still likely start; no matter what, he is sure to play a vital role next season.

But Moore’s time in Durham may not end after his freshman season; although he is extremely talented, he and his parents have emphasized how much they value the education he will receive at Duke — his favorite school since he was a kid — and his game is more solid than flashy, meaning he is not likely to be a one-and-done Blue Devil.

The highlights of his game are his smooth, controlled drives to the basket and ability to use his 7-foot wingspan on defense to give opposing teams constant headaches; also, his strong handles, exceptional floor vision, and notable athleticism should equate to his ability to take over at point guard for Duke if ever necessary.

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What seems most likely, at least to this Duke fan, is that Moore will be the player who serves as the next long-term leader of the Blue Devils while the program transitions out of the one-and-done era over the course of the next few years. The NBA rule that requires a player to be a year removed from high school in order to play in the league is likely to change by 2023 at the latest; also, the G League is in the beginning stages of trying to steal top graduating high school seniors with the promise of a six-figure salary.

Moore — who has a reputation as a mature, friendly teenager and natural leader — is currently in the early stages of his attempt to lead his Cox Mill High School to its third consecutive 3-A state title (no other 3-A North Carolina high school has ever accomplished that feat).

By this time next year, expect Moore to be doing all he can to make Duke basketball fans move past the sadness from Zion and Co. leaving town.

And years from now, don’t be surprised if those same fans embrace Moore as a treasured member of #TheBrotherhood, remembered for saving the day for the 2019 class and leading the Blue Devils to (hopefully) a slew of wins for (fingers crossed) four seasons in a Duke jersey.

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