NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. — Of the four teams remaining in the Nike EYBL Peach Jam finals, only eight players who are members of the Class of 2017 (and none on Team CP3). Every other teen is a rising senior … except for one.
Justin Moore is a youngster from the D.C. area who finds himself sneaking on to the court against the nation’s best before he’s set foot on any high school court, ever. A rising freshman who will attend Maryland-power DeMatha Catholic, Moore is such a capable sharp shooter and defender that he’s been pulled up to Team Takeaway’s senior squad when he isn’t competing in the Eighth Grade Peach Jam Finals.
More impressive than earning a spot on the roster is Moore’s work on the court. Though his outings have been largely relegated to late minutes once a game’s outcome appears decided, he certainly hasn’t been overawed. In fact, he’s looked pretty darn good.
Moore’s first action came against Chicago-based Mac Irvin Fire in Team Takeover’s second contest. He finished with 2 points and 2 rebounds in 11 minutes, spelling some of the team’s biggest stars at the end of a long day. More importantly, he offered solid contributions on defense, which meant that Team Takeover head coach Keith Stevens could remain confident in his team’s edge with an eighth grader in the game.
After missing out on Friday morning’s tight match against Wings Elite, Moore was back in against powerhouse Team CP3, earning five second half minutes and connecting on his first 17-U three-ball of the tournament.
That’s two games against some of the nation’s top opponents, two games where Moore fit in, regardless of youth. A small sample size, but a revealing one nonetheless.
For his part, Stevens said he never doubted including Moore on the Peach Jam roster. In fact, he said the likes of Harry Giles III and Alterique Gilbert aren’t even the toughest opponents he’s had to face off against.
“He’s been playing in our pro program for years,” Stevens said. “He holds his own against anybody.
“He’s just a special, special player, and he’s done well here competing against the best.”
Only time will tell if this auspicious start holds form for Moore with Team Takeover. And if the team is eliminated from the tournament short of a title, Moore will be able to rest a bit easier than most of his teammates. After all, he still has three more of these to go before graduation rolls around.