With three starters returning from a team that won a N.C. 3A state championship, including the N.C. public schools’ player of the year, Cox Mill High boys’ basketball coach Jody Barbee said he expected his team would be favored to repeat in 2018.
Then in June he received a phone call from Chon Black, the father of rising senior Rechon “Leaky” Black, a 6-foot-8 guard who committed to North Carolina in January of his sophomore year.
Black was returning to his native Concord after a year playing in Florida for national power Montverde Academy. He started his career at nearby Concord High, but his family has since moved into the Cox Mill district.
Suddenly, a team that could be very good got much better.
As high school basketball practice officially tips off statewide Monday, Barbee now has Wendell Moore, a 6-6 junior who won a gold medal playing with USA Basketball this summer, and Black on his roster. Both are top 100 players nationally in their respective classes. Both can play both guard and both forward positions.
“It’s been a whole lot of hubbub and a whole lot of hype,” said Barbee, a 1994 Mount Pleasant High graduate. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have Wendell for three years now, and you add Leaky to the mix and you’ve got something special.
“Both are very coachable kids, which makes my life easier. They’re not selfish kids.”
Moore averaged 25 points, nine rebounds and five assists last season. North Carolina’s public school coaches voted him their state player of the year. Moore is ranked No. 22 overall in the class of 2019, and the No. 4 recruit overall at small forward.
Black was a starter at Montverde last season, when he played as many as four positions, using the length and skill set that draws comparisons to Los Angeles Lakers 6-9 small forward and former Duke star Brandon Ingram. Black is ranked No. 62 in the class of 2018 by 247Sports and the No. 12 overall small forward recruit.
Over the summer, Black teamed up with another UNC recruit, Coby White, on Chris Paul’s CP3 travel team. Now back home in Concord, Black said he’s comfortable again and plans to recruit his new teammate to join him and White in Chapel Hill.
“I’m in his ear every day,” Black said. “I really feel like he’ll make the right choice.”
Moore, who admits Black has some sway with him, announced his list of 10 schools Thursday night. It includes the Tar Heels, Duke, N.C. State and Wake Forest. Moore said he’s leaning toward making a decision before the high school season ends in March.
“I’m probably not going to wait too late,” Moore said. “It’s not so much the pressure, but I just want to focus on that senior year, period, and not have anything else to worry about.”
Barbee said Moore’s game has improved dramatically since last season, and said playing against current college players such as Michael Porter (Missouri), Gary Trent Jr. (Duke) and Trae Young (Oklahoma) in USA Basketball practices has helped, as has playing international competition.
“He’s much improved,” Barbee said. “I know, you’re thinking he was already good. The whole USA Basketball experience has brought him out, and now he’ll make moves where Leaky and I look at each other and go like, ‘That’s a professional.’ Some pros can’t make those moves.
“And being able to intermix those two, man, that’s a luxury. I want the ball in their hands, and we’ll go from there and try to do some things.”
Like win another ring, and get that target off their backs.
Wertz: 704-358-5133; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr
High School Basketball Key Dates
Monday: Practice begins
Nov. 13: First playing date, public schools (some private schools begin Nov. 10)
Feb. 20: Public school playoffs begin (private schools begin Feb. 13)
March 3: Public school regionals
March 10: Public school state finals (private school finals are Feb. 24)