Scenes from Cox Mill High star Wendell Moore committing to Duke
There isn’t much Concord Cox Mill boys’ basketball star Wendell Moore hasn’t accomplished in his high school career.
He’s won two gold medals with USA Basketball playing international competition. He’s twice been named public school N.C. player of the year. He’s won two high school state championships.
But Moore, who will sign with Duke Friday, begins his senior year hoping to do something that hasn’t been done under the current state playoff format: lead his team to a third consecutive N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A state title.
“I think we really have a good chance of doing it,” said Moore, a 6-foot-6 forward. “I think we have a chance to be a really good team this year.”
From 1952-54, old Raleigh High won three straight titles in the 3A class, and from 1956-58 Wilmington New Hanover did the same. But since the NCHSAA adopted its current four-classification format in 1960 - the so-called “modern era” - there have been seven teams, including Cox Mill, to win back-to-back in 3A.
No team has won three straight.
“You want to try to make history,” Cox Mill coach Jody Barbee said Wednesday, “and that’s what we talk about. But a lot has to happen right now.”
Including Moore, Barbee’s roster has seven varsity players. He’ll have a 12-man roster, but three are playing football and two are injured. So Cox Mill may have a skeleton crew when it starts the season Tuesday at Hough and Nov. 24 against West Charlotte at Berry High. The latter game will match Moore, ranked No. 25 nationally by rivals.com, and West Charlotte’s 6-8 forward Patrick Williams, a Florida State recruit ranked No. 38.
As long as he has Moore in his lineup, Barbee said he likes his chances against anybody the Chargers play.
“How good can we be? That all depends on (number) zero here,” Barbee said of Moore. “It’s about how good does he want to be. He makes the rest of us go. But we can be special. We have seven seniors who have been together now for six or seven years. So chemistry is not an issue with them. They enjoy playing together. I think we can be really good.”
Of the top five scorers on the Chargers’ 2017-18 state championship team, four are returning. Only Leaky Black, a freshman at North Carolina, is missing. Among the other four is 6-7 Charlotte 49ers commit Caleb Stone-Carrawell, the son of former Duke star and current Blue Devils assistant coach Chris Carrawell.
Stone-Carrawell’s role will change this year as he’ll be counted on to score more and take more of a leadership role. Moore’s role will be about the same as it’s been since he arrived on campus as a ninth grader: lead and dominate.
Moore, who turned 17 in September, is 19 points from breaking the Cabarrus County public school scoring record of 2,174 points, set by former Concord Robinson star Lavar Batts Jr. Moore is also bearing down on the overall county record of 2,602 set by former Concord Cannon private school star Jarrell Eddie.
Barbee said he expects Moore to score between 800 and 1,000 points this season, which could rank him as the second N.C. public school player to score 3,000 career points. Eastern Alamance’s James’On Curry holds the public school record of 3,307 points, which he scored from 2000-04 before playing in college at Oklahoma State.
The overall N.C. career scoring record was set last year by Wilson Greenfield School’s Coby White. White, a freshman point guard at North Carolina, scored 3,573 points at the private school.
“The pressure is off Wendell now,” Barbee said. “Yes, fans will heckle him and say stuff, but he’ll just be able to play basketball. He’ll score 800 to 1,000 points this year. I think he’s that type of scorer. And if he does that, we’re hoisting that (state championship) trophy at the end of the season. He just has to be a leader, like normal, and that’s what Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) is expecting of him when he gets to Duke.”
Moore said his life has changed since he committed to the Blue Devils last month.
“Now,” he said, “I’m just able to focus on basketball and I don’t have to answer 100 different phone calls and texts a day. Now instead of everybody saying, ‘Go here,’ or ‘Go there,’ it’s just people congratulating me. Honestly, for me, (the recruiting process) wasn’t as bad as people say it is. Yeah, there’s a lot of pressure, but after you make that decision it’s all worth it.”
Moore said Duke’s coaching staff is telling him that they expect him to come in as a freshman next season “to score, defend and lead the team.”
That’s very similar to the role he has at Cox Mill. And if he plays it well enough, he could put the Chargers in a position for their third straight title.
“Now that I can focus on just basketball, it’s just me being in the gym a lot every day,” Moore said. “There’s nothing else to worry about but winning the state championship this year.”