High School Sports

Duke recruit Wendell Moore goes to rim, right past early struggles, in Greensboro Day win

Cox Mills’ Wendell Moore (0) led his team to a win over N.C. private school state champ Greensboro Day at the Crown Town Classic at Providence Day Saturday
Cox Mills’ Wendell Moore (0) led his team to a win over N.C. private school state champ Greensboro Day at the Crown Town Classic at Providence Day Saturday Special to the Observer

In the first half of his team’s 75-61 win over Greensboro Day Saturday, Concord Cox Mill All-American Wendell Moore wasn’t playing very well.

Moore was 1-for-6 from the floor. He had two points and zero rebounds.

So Chargers coach Jody Barbee did what most any other coach would do to the average player: he benched Moore to start the second half.

Only Moore is a top 25 national talent. He’s signed to Duke and is a likely participant in the McDonald’s All-American Game.

Most coaches wouldn’t bench a guy like that.

LINK: UNC, NC State Duke target Isaiah Todd of Raleigh Trinity talks dunking, recruiting, legacy on #RidingWIthRecruits

“I didn’t think he was very good in the first half,” Barbee said. “He wasn’t rebounding the ball and he wasn’t defending, and he knows it. It’s not news. His mom and dad know it. Everybody in stands could see it. Me as a coach, I can’t allow it, regardless of how good he is.”

So when Barbee sent his Chargers back out to start the second half, down 27-26, Moore calmly sat on the bench and cheered his teammates.

“I wasn’t mad about it,” Moore said. “No, not really. I guess (Barbee) felt like that was the right thing to do. So I had to come off the bench and find a way to win.”

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Cox MIll’s Wendell Moore (left) made 13-of-16 free throw attempts in Saturday’s 75-61 win over Greensboro Day at the Crown Town Classic Jonathan Aguallo Special to the Observer

When he came back, Moore slowly began to work his way into the game.

With his outside shot not falling (0-for-5 from 3), Moore began to rigorously attack the middle of what is annually one of the best defensive teams in North Carolina.

And part of what makes Moore so special is that he can become a vicious slasher when he wants to, and at 6-foot-6, 215 pounds, he can play through contact and make a missed tomahawk dunk over two defenders into the highlight of the night.

Moore scored 23 of his 25 points in 14 minutes of the second half. He had four rebounds, three steals, two blocks and made 13-of-16 free throws as he was often fouled driving to the basket.

“My shot was off,” he said, “and when I can’t get my shot falling, I kind of keep attacking and finding other ways to get it done. It’s not how I planned it to be. But sometimes I have to find other ways to get going.”

Moore’s performance thoroughly impressed Greensboro Day’s Freddy Johnson. Last season, Johnson became the 20th boys high school coach to win 1,000 career games, and he also won his 10th state championship.

Johnson, who has seen his share of elite talent, called Moore one of the best players he’s coached against.

“He’s an excellent player,” Johnson said. “He plays his role. He doesn’t try to overdo things. But in the fourth quarter, he kind of took it over, and his team needed him to do that.”

Barbee, Moore’s coach, was happy to see his senior go into attack mode. He said Moore’s been relying too much on his jump shot and not getting to the rim -- and the free throw line -- enough in recent weeks.

So if it took a little benching to remind Moore about playing hard and being more of a slasher, well, Barbee’s OK with that.

“He responded, didn’t he?” Barbee said with a sly grin. “I’ve got to get max effort out of him every night. And there’s been nights where he goes through the motions at times, so I had to do what a coach has to do to try to make a point.

“Not too many guys like him would be OK with it. But he handed it well. He’s a great kid, a superstar, but he’s a very humble kid. You saw that tonight.”