Duke Basketball: Wendell Moore led class from ghost town to boom town

Wendell Moore, Duke basketball (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Wendell Moore, Duke basketball (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

The Duke basketball program should again lead the country in freshman talent next season, thanks in part to one five-star’s spark back in the fall and subsequent recruiting contributions.

Duke basketball signee Wendell Moore wins more than most.

He won the North Carolina Mr. Basketball award last week, joining five former Blue Devils to have done so: Brandon Ingram (2015), Mason Plumlee (2009), Shavlik Randolph (2002), Jeff Capel (1993), and Robert Brickey (1986).

He has also won two state titles with his Cox Mill High School to go along with his one gold medal with USA Basketball.

As for intangible winnings, by becoming back in October the first to commit to the Blue Devils’ 2019 class and then doing his part and then some in convincing others to join him — leading to what is now the nation’s No. 1 class — Moore has already won over his future fans, teammates, and coaches.

"“[Head coach Mike Krzyzewski] wanted me to be the leader of this recruiting class,” the 6-foot-6, 210-pound small forward told Langston Wertz Jr. of the Charlotte Observer. “So I kind of stepped out in front to get that done.”"

He did indeed.

In fact, one could argue Moore saved what otherwise may have become one of the weakest of Coach K’s 40 recruiting classes to date, which would have come at an inopportune time considering the one-and-done departures from last season’s three leading scorers.

Before Moore’s announcement, an unfamiliar feeling of rejection was beginning to straddle the program.

Bryan Antoine. Josiah James. Nico Mannion. Those were the notable 2019 recruits who had chosen to commit elsewhere last fall after many fans just assumed Coach K would land them all due to his hauling in the nation’s three previous No. 1 classes (four of the past five).

The word “no” was unexpected and tough to swallow.

Fortunately for the Blue Devils, a lifelong fan of the program who happens to be a Swiss Army Knife basketball player gave the coaches the “yes” they needed to hear.

Moore verbally committed to the Duke staff before returning home from his official visit in September, weeks before his public announcement; fittingly, according to the 17-year-old’s account from his interview with the Charlotte Observer, a former multitool Blue Devil, whose No. 33 hangs from Cameron Indoor Stadium’s rafters, was on campus at the time.

Grant Hill is who Moore hopes to at least partially resemble when he plays in a Duke jersey.

"“Now, I look back, and I kind of model my game after [Hill],” Moore said. “I’ve been kind of watching his highlight tapes, and I just try to pick up on the little things that he did.”"

Like Hill, Moore recognizes achieving big things requires a collection of little things. And doing all the little things appears to be the specialty of the McDonald’s All-American who ranks No. 22 on the 247Sports Composite.

Moore — who averaged a Hill-like 25.5 points, 8.3 boards, 3.7 dimes, and 2.5 steals as a high school senior — has put his winning style on full display the past month with his unselfish play, starting at the McDonald’s All-American Game, where he didn’t miss a shot from the field or foul line on his way to 13 points.

At the Nike Hoops Summit, he also scored 13 points while finishing with a game-high plus/minus of 15. And at the Jordan Brand Classic on Saturday night, he had four points, four rebounds, four assists, and a steal.

Unselfish during all-star exhibitions?!

That’s Moore.

He has the mentality of a pass-first point guard with the body, skill set, and athleticism to play up to four positions. Again like Hill, he’s a player who coaches and teammates naturally trust to have the ball in his hands. Unlike Hill, though, Moore has developed a trustworthy outside shot prior to coming to Duke.

And Moore has a laidback demeanor and friendly smile that seems to make him a dream teammate.

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All his qualities, as well as his regularly reaching out to Duke targets in person and on social media ever since his signing, have likely played a significant role in the Blue Devils landing the three 2019 recruits to have thus far followed his lead: five-star center Vernon Carey Jr., who ranks No. 3 on the composite; five-star power forward Matthew Hurt, who ranks No. 8; and four-star combo guard Boogie Ellis, who ranks No. 34.

As mentioned above, the class that looked headed for disaster before Moore’s commitment now sits at No. 1 in the nation. If the 247Sports Crystal Ball is correct, then what should be the finishing piece to the puzzle, which should ensure Duke’s class finishes at No. 1, will come in the form of a commitment from four-star shooting guard Cassius Stanley, who ranks No. 29, shortly after 3:30 p.m. EST today.

ALSO READ: Cassius Stanley would make Dukies preseason No. 1

Here’s the takeaway: Where Moore goes, more (wins and teammates) follow.

Next. Top five small forwards of the Coach K era. dark

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