If the male player of the year in college basketball would be Oscar Tshiebwe of Kentucky, the male player of the era would have to be one Charles Edward Moore from Chicago. He’s itinerant. He’s adaptable. He’s adored.
He has committed to Memphis (November 2015). He has decommitted from Memphis because the coaches left (April 2016). He has committed to California (May 2016). He has transferred from California because the coach left (April 2017). He has transferred to Kansas (April 2017). He has sat out a season (2017-18). He has transferred from Kansas to be closer to home (April 2019). He has transferred to DePaul (April 2019). He has transferred from DePaul because the coach got canned (April 2021).
He has transferred to Miami (April 2021) which, for those scoring at home, appeared on his shortlist of eight schools back in April 2016, weeks after he decommitted from Memphis and weeks before he committed to California.
“Charlie played in the Pac-12, played in the Big 12, played in the Big East and now is playing in the ACC,” Miami Coach Jim Larrañaga said. “Is there anybody else in college basketball history that has been on that kind of journey?”
If there is, he might be tired. Moore looks profoundly not-tired, as if humanity might just derive energy from frontier. He has a degree in communications from DePaul and is studying international administration at Miami. He just spent the weekend in Greenville, S.C., racking up two gorgeous strains amid two box scores: 36 minutes, 16 points, three rebounds, five assists, four steals and two turnovers against Southern California, then 36 minutes, 15 points, nine rebounds, eight assists, three steals and two turnovers against Auburn. He did this while floor-piloting a No. 10 seed that edged No. 7 Southern California, 68-66; shredded No. 2 Auburn, 79-61; and moved on to a battle of severe wind: Miami Hurricanes vs. Iowa State Cyclones in, yeah, Chicago.
There, he might just spend a region final come Sunday opposite one of his former coaches, because of course he might. It would be Bill Self of Kansas, who in December 2018 told reporters after Moore’s good night against South Dakota, “This is what we thought all along, that he was going to be our marksman off the bench, so to speak.” Yet it was only at Kansas that Moore did not start every game or near about, starting one out of 35.
As those musty old restrictions on mobility have loosened and players have found their freedom, Moore has played 34 games and 980 minutes for California, 35 and 456 for Kansas, 48 and 1,650 for DePaul and 35 and 1,138 for Miami. He has scored 414 for Berkeley, 102 for Lawrence, 727 for Chicago and 447 for Coral Gables and assisted other people 120 times at California, 44 at Kansas, 263 at DePaul and 161 at Miami. He has stolen the ball 196 times while based in three continental time zones (lacking only Mountain), 72 of those this year.
That’s rather the identity of this Miami team, with its highflying transition offense and its weekend just spent with these statistical arias: 42-5 in fast-break points (30-1 vs. Auburn), 33-7 in assist-to-turnover ratio, 39-6 in points off turnovers.
“As we’ve shown throughout the season,” Kiwi big man Sam Waardenburg said, “our identity is a pressure team.” And then he said: “Charlie is always down there [in the paint]. . . . Looking at nine rebounds [against Auburn] from the smallest guy on our team, that’s insane.”
Moore’s whole path would be insane except it’s starting to get less insane. Twenty years hence, people might just sit around and nod at such paths and make fewer assessments such as that of Miami’s Kameron McGusty, who also played at Oklahoma: “Individually it’s crazy. Me and Charlie have been in college six years. For real, like, we’ve been here six years.”
As of now, with these days of victorious vagabonds still nascent, someone asked Moore last week if he ever started to wonder, and Moore said he never started to wonder.
“No, I never wondered,” he said. “I worked hard to get to this moment. I feel like I’m a good enough player to be here. I never wondered about anything. I never really tried to worry about anything. I just tried to take it one moment at a time. I feel like I did that.”
Question: “Coach, does anybody have more fun playing basketball than Charlie?”
In turn, Moore clearly has developed that thing often present in, say, military children: the capacity to go comfortably into roomfuls of strangers.
“Man, I love the guy,” Larrañaga said. “He’s got the greatest smile. He’s got the greatest personality. You just love being around him. And he enjoys it. The great part about Charlie is he brings that out in everyone. All the players love hanging around with him, love playing with him. The coaches love being around him. And I’ve called him repeatedly, not this weekend but way back in December — he’s like our Chris Paul or our Tom Brady. He has such charisma.”
And then: “And then to find a program at the end of the journey that embraces him like my coaching staff and players have. They welcomed him into our program and gave him the ball and said, ‘Please lead us to an ACC championship or NCAA tournament,’ and he hasn’t let anybody down. He’s been a fantastic player, and his journey is not over.”
It’s on to Chicago, where reporter Mike Helfgot visited Moore’s family for the Chicago Tribune back at the outset of spring 2016. Moore’s final Morgan Park High team had just taken a shocking loss in a supersectional game after winning one state title when Moore was a 5-foot-5 freshman backup and another when he was a sophomore starting point guard. He had averaged 28 points and won the state best-player balloting in a landslide. His father was recovering from a stroke from the previous Labor Day, and Curtis Moore told Helfgot: “I started him at the age of 3, just dribbling the ball. I always wanted to make sure he was the best ballhandler on the floor.” And so: “He didn’t play with toys when he was a little kid. We had rims on the doors all throughout the house, and that’s what he did.”
Now it’s to the rims at United Center, with a fourth college in a third time zone on a Sweet 16 team that dovetails with his energy and his joy even though they’ll have just one year together. It’s a winding trail through coaches and teammates and names and faces that includes California teammate Jabari Bird telling reporters, “He’s a freshman age-wise, but his game is a lot more mature than that,” and former Kansas stalwart Wayne Selden telling Gary Bedore of the Kansas City Star: “I know Charlie. He’s a player.”
He’s a player you might have missed, but that’s because he was moving.