The Wendell Moore Duke basketball needs more of next season

Duke basketball forward Wendell Moore (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Duke basketball forward Wendell Moore (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Duke basketball sophomore Wendell Moore has the chance for a breakout year.

There is one way that Wendell Moore firmly ensconces himself in Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski‘s starting five this fall. Maintaining a double-digit scoring average while contributing on the glass would more than likely be enough to stay on the 73-year-old Hall of Famer’s good side.

Moore, a 6-foot-6, 213-pound shooting forward from Charlotte, N.C., was a solid contributor for the Blue Devils last season until mid-February. His productivity after his game-winner against North Carolina in Chapel Hill on Feb. 8, however, shows a significant decline.

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In games against nine of Duke’s opponents (including three non-conference foes) from November through mid-February, the freshman wing was consistently an efficient contributor. Those games included contests in the 2K Classic against California and Georgetown, home games against Stephen F. Austin and Boston College, and away matches against Virginia Tech, Miami, Syracuse, Boston College, and North Carolina.

In those nine games, Moore averaged 10.4 points on 54 percent shooting. He added almost five rebounds per game and just over 2.5 assists per game. These averages are comparable to, if not even slightly better than, teammate Cassius Stanley‘s first-year numbers. Stanley averaged 12.5 points, shot 47 percent from the field, grabbed three rebounds per game, and added an assist per game during his freshman campaign. Now, Stanley is considered by most to be an early second-round NBA selection.

A group of games in which the Duke basketball rookie sometimes disappeared

However, after his double-double performance against North Carolina in the Dean Dome, Moore struggled to maintain his consistent production. In late February and March against Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, North Carolina State, and the Tar Heels in Durham, and against the Wolfpack and Virginia on the road, Moore reached double figures in scoring just once.

Over these six games, Moore averaged just 4.2 points per game on 23 percent shooting. The freshman Blue Devil still grabbed nearly five rebounds per game but only recorded a total of two steals and six assists in those contests despite averaging 23.5 minutes. His raw talent and athleticism, though, continued to warrant starting lineup consideration (as he was on the floor at tipoff in half of those six games) despite his clear decline in performance.

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Wendell Moore came to Duke with a No. 29 composite ranking as a recruit. The 2019 McDonald’s High School All-American averaged more than 25 points and just over seven rebounds during his senior year at Cox Mill High School. While no one expects him to repeat those numbers in his second season in Durham, a return to his 2019-20 first-half form would provide Coach K with a steadying presence on the wing.

And it would likely lead to a consistent spot on the court at tipoff this season.

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