As one of the most highly recruited players in the country for the last few years, Cox Mill High School (Concord, N.C.) wing Wendell Moore Jr. is no stranger to being courtside at some of college basketball’s biggest games.
Even after committing to Duke last October, Moore consistently remained front and center at Cameron Indoor Stadium to watch his Blue Devils.
“It’s always a big game when it’s at Duke,” Moore said.
Still, even Moore had to concede that the build-up for No. 1 Duke’s Wednesday night matchup with No. 8 North Carolina was “at a different level” than he’s witnessed in the past with the No. 1 ranking, the Zion Williamson hype and President Barack Obama sitting courtside.
That’s why it’s understandable that Moore felt “a little letdown” when Williamson went down with an injury less than a minute into the game.
Williamson slipped and fell awkwardly when his foot burst through his shoe as he planted hard while dribbling and attempting to go by North Carolina forward Luke Maye.
Williamson limped off the court and never returned; he was later diagnosed with a mild knee sprain and is currently listed as day-to-day.
North Carolina went on to win 88-72.
“That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen in a basketball game,” Moore said of Williamson’s fall. “You don’t even think about something like that happening with a shoe. My first reaction was just get him more shoes, but when he didn’t come back I was more sending my prayers up for him.”
Moore said there was a certain level of shock in the gym when Williamson went down.
“I mean it’s Duke-UNC, the President is there, everyone is hype and then Zion goes down,” Moore said. “That was a lot to handle for everyone. It definitely changed the mood.”
After the game, Moore got a chance to wish Williamson well, but left encouraged with his prognosis.
“A mild sprain is much better than a torn ACL,” Moore said. “I hated for him that he couldn’t be out there with his team, and, of course, he was upset after the game, but he’ll be back and that’s all that matters is that he’s OK.”
Moore said he’s “confident” that the outcome would have been different with Williamson in the lineup.
“Not just offensively, but defensively too,” Moore said. “Luke Maye had a great night, with Zion there that’s taking at least 15 points away from him, but we’ll see them again in a couple weeks.”
For now, Moore, who is ranked No. 22 overall in USA Today Sports’ Chosen 25 for 2019, is laser-focused on his own team.
The Chargers, who are ranked 14 overall in USA Today’s Super 25, will play for their conference title Friday night before starting their quest for a third-straight state title.
This season Moore is averaging 28 points, eight rebounds a four assists a game.
“We’re all excited and hungry,” Moore said. “We know what we have to do to get it done and we’re putting everything in to that.”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY