NEAR WEST SIDE — Morgan Park High School graduate Charlie Moore has traveled the country as a basketball player — but he’s returning to Chicago Friday for a March Madness game at the United Center.
Moore, a former Illinois Mr. Basketball, will start at point guard for University of Miami on Friday when the team takes on Iowa State in the Sweet Sixteen at the United Center. Tipoff is slated for 8:59 p.m. The game will be broadcasted on TBS.
The Englewood native has traveled the United States to look for his fit in college basketball. Moore played at California, transferred to Kansas when the coach left, transferred to DePaul to be closer to home after his father’s stroke and transferred to Miami after another coaching change. At 24 years old, Moore is a sixth-year redshirt senior, playing his final year.
Now, college basketball’s biggest stage has brought Moore back to where it all started.
“Chicago got me here,” Moore said. “I just live for the moment. When we won the Auburn game, it just hit me a bit, knowing I was coming home.”
Moore, a hard-nosed point guard just a smidge under 6 feet, scored 15 points and dropped eight assists against Auburn in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, leading underdog Miami to the Sweet Sixteen and making him a breakout star of March Madness.
Moore said his parents and friends will be at the United Center. He’ll take his teammates to Harold’s or soul food spot Soulé Chicago before the game.
“We’re a close-knit team. We play for each other,” Moore said. “I appreciate all the hometown support. And I’m going to do what we can to win.”
Nick Irvin, who coached Moore at Morgan Park and for AAU program Mac Irvin Fire, said he is “built for moments like this.” Moore “took home every award you can” in Chicago, Irvin said: Illinois Mr. Basketball, two state championships and a top-100 national ranking alongside former teammate and Chicago Bulls rookie Ayo Dosunmu.
The undersized guard has an unshakable confidence, Irvin said.
“He’s a leader. He loves the pressure, the magnitude of it all. He just embraces all that,” Irvin said. “He plays Chicago tough.”
Irivn remembers watching Moore play in a high school varsity league at St. Sabina Church as a seventh-grader. When Moore chose Morgan Park, Irvin handed him the reins, drawing up the final play for Moore down the stretch of his first game of his freshmen year.
Morgan Park had older, future Division I players in the huddle, but Irvin said, “Ima go with Charlie.”
Moore came off a double screen and knocked down a 35-footer to win the game.
“I always know the shot is good. I’m confident in myself,” Moore said. “I always had that confidence. And as I got older, got better at the game, it just continued to grow.”
Earlier this season, Moore hit a half-court buzzer-beater to take down Virginia Tech on the road.
Irvin said he still talks to Moore after every game, and his nickname has stayed the same: “Baby Assassin.”
Moore grew up in Englewood; in the summertime, he was always at Foster Park with his dad, Curtis, said Chuck Neely, a neighborhood coach and family friend. After getting shots up with his dad, Moore would post up by the courts and watch Chicago legends like Tim Hardaway and Shawn Marion play pickup, Neely said.
“Little Charlie would stay there just watching while his dad would be long gone to the pool,” Neely said. “Now Charlie wants the ball in his hands. He’s a floor general. He brings his confidence to his whole team.”
Moore said he’s played at the United Center only once before.
“I was just a kid though,” Moore said. “This will be different.”
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