GREENVILLE, S.C. — There were 19 seconds left Sunday night when Miami coach Jim Larranaga summoned point guard Charlie Moore to the Hurricanes’ bench. A massive smile on Larranaga’s face, he extended his long arms and embraced his sixth-year senior in a massive hug.
They pulled away from each other, and then embraced again. Moore’s job was done for the night — he’d posted 15 points, 8 eight assists and 9 rebounds — but his career wasn’t done. Moments later, when the Hurricanes’ 79-61 upset of second-seeded Auburn was complete, Moore looked to the small section of traveling Hurricanes fans and pointed at them. Then he saw Larranaga. They hugged again.
After all Moore had been through — his father’s stroke, transfer after transfer leading to stops in four schools and even a flirtation with a professional career — he’d reached this stage. What might be the final part of his cross-country journey through college basketball will bring Moore right back where he started.
Back to “Sweet Home Chicago.” In the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament, played before friends and family.
“I mean, it’s a dream come true,” Moore told ESPN moments after Miami’s win. “You know, just excited to be here with my team. This is a moment I’m going to treasure forever, for the rest of my life. … After all I’ve been through — different schools, coaches leaving, my dad, I’ve been through a lot. So it’s a special moment.”
At age 24, Charlie Moore is getting a chance to return to the place where his basketball legend began. AP Photo/Brynn Anderson
Moore’s college journey began after he was named Illinois Mr. Basketball out of Morgan Park High School on Chicago’s south side in 2016. He switched his commitment from Memphis to Cal after Josh Pastner left for Georgia Tech — a small taste of what was to come in Moore’s nomadic career. The reasons his path would ultimately lead him from Cal to Kansas to DePaul and then Miami involved decisions made by others and a serious family health situation.
Cal to Kansas was the result of coach Cuonzo Martin’s departure to Missouri from the Bears. Kansas to DePaul brought Moore back home, closer to his father, Curtis, who had suffered a stroke in 2015.
“Going from school to school, you know, also with my dad going through his situation, that was tough for me,” Moore said. “I always wanted to get close to him, help him and my mom out. Stuff they were going through, if they were going through something, I’m going through it.”
Moore knows it might look like he was jumping from situation to situation for basketball reasons, but the 24-year-old says that wasn’t the case. Staying would have been easy — he says he didn’t necessarily want to leave any of the schools he played for.
Complete your bracket by selecting the winner in each of the games in the NCAA tournament from the Sweet 16 to the championship. Tournament Challenge Second Chance
Last March, his coach at DePaul, Dave Leitao, got fired. Moore considered turning pro, but “it just didn’t sit right with me.” Curtis’ health was improving, and that allowed Moore to consider one more college stop.
Meanwhile in Coral Gables, Miami player Chris Lykes told Larranaga he was turning pro and hiring an agent (Lykes later decided to transfer to Arkansas instead), leaving the Hurricanes without a point guard. Soon after, Miami assistant Bill Courtney — who had coached at DePaul — told Larranaga that Moore was in the transfer portal.
Larranaga remembered Moore from high school recruiting events and texted him. Moore was interested. COVID forced a Zoom recruitment with Moore and his family. Moore talked with Curtis, who knew his son wanted to end his career in the tournament after a couple of years of struggle at DePaul, and offered his blessing for another move across the country. Moore says Curtis “made stuff make sense.”
Moore chose Miami, and one of college basketball’s wildest journeys continued in South Florida. On a team looking to reach the NCAA tournament following a 10-17 campaign in 2020-21, Larranaga needed the players to believe in Moore — and Moore to believe in them. Larranaga has asked a lot of his point guard. He has asked him to score, distribute and become one of the league’s better defenders and team leaders.
Moore has done all that, averaging 12.7 points and 4.5 points in leading the Canes back to the tournament for the first time since since 2018. Since getting there, he has led them to wins against USC and Auburn, games that have been gratifying for player and coach.
“It’s pure joy,” Larranaga said. “We can’t do it without Charlie. All these guys that experienced it, they needed to welcome in somebody who was willing to take on that role. That’s not an easy role. It’s not.”
Charlie Moore has delivered Jim Larranaga and Miami back to the school’s first Sweet 16 since 2016. AP Photo/Brynn Anderson
Neither has a journey that has taken Moore from the Pac-12 to the Big 12 to the Big East to the ACC. Even with the explosion of the transfer portal, a player with four high-major stops over six seasons is still a rarity in college basketball.
And this long road trip somehow leads back to Chicago, to the United Center, for what could be the final stop. Miami is favored against Iowa State in a Sweet 16 game on Friday but will not be the popular pick to come out of a Midwest Region that includes 1-seed Kansas and 4-seed Providence. If all goes well, Moore will get to play two games before the hometown fans. He’ll potentially get to see his former Kansas team again in the Elite Eight, another full-circle type of moment.
Moore says Curtis, whom he credits with making him the player he is now, might be in attendance this week for those games.
“He used to come to all my games before the situation happened,” Moore said. “So just to have him here is going to be a special moment for me.”
One that might even make all the moves, all the transfers, the circuitous journey to the closing moments of Moore’s college career worth it.