DJ Moore was enjoying his junior season of high school basketball this past December when he got a phone call from Liberty head coach Ritchie McKay. It wasn’t an unexpected call as the Flames had been recruiting the 6’3″ point guard from Worthington, Ohio for some time, but what McKay had to say took Moore by surprise.
“Right before Christmas break, Coach called and was like, ‘Hey, there’s a possibility we might have a scholarship open up for the upcoming class if you feel like you’re ready and you want to maybe come earlier,'” Moore explained. “‘It’s a possibility that could happen.’ He said, ‘Think about it, pray about it, and if you feel like God has put it on your heart to do that, then we would love to have you if it ends up happening.'”
After that call, Moore and his family began discussing the possibility and deciding what he had to do to be able to graduate a year ahead of schedule in just a few months. He took one class online and added two extra classes to his schedule following the Christmas break. He is now on schedule to graduate by the end of the school year and plans on arriving on campus at Liberty in June.
Still, as he went through his junior season, he wasn’t 100% sure this would happen. McKay and Moore would talk frequently and update each other on where the two stood on possibly reclassifying. Meanwhile, Moore was continuing to excel on the basketball court. He led the Worthington Christian Warriors in scoring this season at 17.8 points per game to go along with 5.1 assists and 4.3 rebounds each night.
The three-year varsity starter helped lead his team to the state championship game and a 27-2 record. Moore hit a game winner as time expired in the state semifinals, and he scored a game-high 28 points in the state title game despite a loss.
Just a few minutes after the heartbreaking loss, where he scored 12 points in the fourth quarter, his phone rang again and it was McKay on the other end.
“Right after the state championship game, like 30 minutes after, he called me and was telling me it is official, we would love to have you,” said Moore. “It felt great when he called me.”
Moore committed to Liberty in July 2020 following his sophomore year of high school as he became the youngest commit the Flames have ever received under McKay and perhaps the youngest commitment in school history. He committed to the Flames less than 24 hours after receiving an offer from the coaching staff. Liberty assistant coach Derek Johnston first saw Moore in the summer of 2019 and began recruiting him then.
Moore also had reported offers from Ohio and Miami (OH) before making his commitment known. He took unofficial visits to Ohio State and Dayton. Belmont and Davidson were also aggressively pursuing before he shut down his recruitment.
“The biggest thing was faith,” Moore said as to why he committed to Liberty. “Faith is a really big thing for me. Being able to go to a school that is big on that and preaches that is a big thing for me. Also, Coach McKay is the only coach in my recruitment that was straight up with me on things that I needed to work on. A lot of coaches try to throw all the good stuff out there and praise you, but the first call that we had when he offered me, he said, ‘This is something you need to work on, you’re not great at this, and I’m willing to help you get great at that.’ I think that really hit home when he said that. He was the first coach that was straight up with me.”
Moore now becomes part of a 2021 class that joins Brody Peebles and Joseph Venzant. He says in the coming months he will work on increasing his strength while learning the Flames’ offense and defense with hopes of being able to contribute immediately.
“It’s kind of sad thinking I won’t play with them again,” Moore said of his high school teammates. “We had a couple good freshman that I won’t be able to play with next year and be able to guide them next year. My coach, it will be sad not playing for him because we’re pretty close. He really trusted me with a lot of the offense and defense and just being able to lead us. Not being able to do that again is hard, but other than that, honestly, I’m ready to be able to have a chance to play at the next level.”