How Kanye West, faith and the honor code played a hand in Braeden Moore’s journey from Nashville to BYU
Moore isn’t a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but he is a devout Christian. If anything, the honor code helped BYU land the talented sharpshooter
Moore isn’t a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but he is a devout Christian. If anything, the honor code was a positive factor that attracted him to BYU.
“The school is different. A lot of people have mixed feelings about the honor code,” said the 6-foot-8, 215-pounder from Nashville, Tennessee. “For me, what I believe in as a Christian, it aligns with my standards and the person I am. That’s the way I grew up, abiding by those rules and boundaries that you put in your life — especially in today’s world. Some people find that so unattractive. That kind of blows my mind. It’s sad to see.
“Going to an environment like that where you get to focus and meet people for who they are and not just partying and all that stuff, there’s a time and place for that for certain people,” Moore added. “But for me, that’s not who I am. I’m a hard worker. I don’t like to be distracted by things like that. There are a lot of positives to the honor code, in my opinion. I’m all for it.”
Moore’s family is originally from Southern California. They moved to Nashville seven years ago and his dad is an executive for OpenText, a software company.
“Living in California is tough financially and culturally, too. I went to a Christian school growing up. It’s a small community,” Moore said. “All my grandparents, aunts and uncles live in California. We were out on an island in Tennessee. But my family felt called here.”
When living in California, Moore’s parents had many Latter-day Saint friends.
“My mom and dad grew up in Orange County, and there’s a strong LDS community out there,” he said. “My mom’s best friends were LDS. Everyone thought she was LDS because she always hung out with LDS people. But she wasn’t. She didn’t party. She had her head on straight.”
Before being recruited by BYU, Moore knew it was a Latter-day Saint school, he knew it was located in Utah and he knew about former Cougars quarterback Taysom Hill.
Now, Moore feels that BYU is the right place for him to play college basketball.
“There were a lot of ups and downs” during the recruiting process, he said. “When BYU said, ‘We want you,’ I was like, ‘That says a lot.’ I also knew when I visited there. Once I visited, I knew that BYU was for me. That was a school I was really excited about.”
Numerous members of the Latter-day Saint faith in the Nashville area reached out to congratulate him when the news became public, which he appreciated.
Even before he was being recruited by the Cougars, he already had at least one connection to the school. In September 2019, while Moore was attending high school in Nashville, the BYU football team defeated the Tennessee Volunteers in overtime in Knoxville.
Moore wasn’t a BYU fan at the time, but he enjoyed that moment.
“Tennessee fans were saying things that weren’t appropriate. They were mad,” he recalled. “They said, ‘We lost to the Mormons?’ Stuff like that. It was awesome. I was loving it. Tennessee fans need to be humbled. They’re nuts.”
“Shoot, I would cancel, too,” he said. “C’mon. That was hilarious.”
Aside from the honor code, there are plenty of reasons why Moore chose BYU. He said he loves the players in the program and the coaching staff — head coach Mark Pope and assistants Cody Fueger and Nick Robinson.
“The way that coach Pope wants to use me the next few years is the player that I want to become. I know he sees the best in me,” he said. “I love his energy. He’s always ticking. He’s always talking and engaging. He wants to make me feel as comfortable as I can feel and make me the best player I can be.
“That’s all I want, a coach that I can have a relationship with and be able to talk to him and say. ‘Coach, I’m struggling with this.’ And it doesn’t need to be basketball-related,” he continued. “That’s a coach I want to play for. Some programs, it’s like, ‘Figure it out on your own or we’ll find another transfer.’ He’s really trying to invest in the person and the player as much as he is on the floor. He’s awesome and his track record is pretty good.”
Moore’s looking forward to competing for the Cougars.
“Going into this environment, I’m going to BYU to make connections for life, I’m going to play in front of 17,000 a game, I’m going to be in a great league, I’m going to be (with) people I can call my brothers because of how good people they are,” he said. “It’s how well-cultured the school is and the team.
“It came down to the coaching staff and the people and the players I’ll be around. It’s a high major school in the (West Coast Conference) and next year it will be in the Big 12. The style of play fits really well, the location is beautiful.”
Donda Academy and Kanye West
Moore was a star at Christ Presbyterian Academy in Nashville. In 2021, as a junior, he led the Lions to the Division II-A championship game and was a finalist for the Mr. Basketball award. Moore averaged a team-high 18.5 points and eight rebounds per game.
With offers from 32 schools, including Tennessee, Wisconsin, Kansas, Notre Dame, Arkansas, Arizona State, Memphis, Ole Miss and Missouri, Moore committed to Rutgers of the Big Ten.
Last fall, he decommitted and reopened his recruitment.
“I had cold feet. That wasn’t going to be the right fit for me,” Moore said. “I think I made an impulsive decision. I started looking at other options.”
Meanwhile, also after Moore’s junior season, his coach at CPA left. Moore decided he wanted to finish up his high school career elsewhere.
He ended up at Donda Academy in Simi Valley, California, which was founded by Kanye West — the rapper, producer, entrepreneur and fashion designer. According to the school’s website, Donda Academy’s purpose is “finding the intersection between faith and the innovation of the future … equipping students with an education that will last in the ever-changing world.”
How Moore landed at Donda Academy involved some divine intervention, he explained.
“It was a total God thing. I get a phone call from a buddy,” he said. “He’s like, ‘You should look at Donda. They’re interested in you.’ Next thing I know, I’m on calls with them.”
Then he went on a visit to Donda Academy. The only reason why Moore’s mom was fine with him finishing up high school two thousand miles away in California was because he could live with his grandparents who lived nearby. Moore also had cousins close by as well.
“I was around family the entire time,” he said. “That was a big deal for us.”
Moore’s experience at Donda Academy was more than he had hoped for. Some thought he went to Donda Academy because of its ties to Kanye West.
“Honestly, I didn’t know much about Kanye until I got there. I was like, ‘Wait a minute, he has crazy fans.’ I knew he had the shoes and stuff,” he said. “I didn’t realize that it was going to be a big part of it. It was easy for me to focus on basketball.”
Moore said West was “pretty involved” with the basketball team and when Moore signed with BYU, West congratulated him.
For West, Donda Academy, named for his mother, is a labor of love.
“He’s spending his own money. You don’t get any return on a school. It’s very selfless,” Moore said. “Some people make fun of him but LeBron did the same thing. He’s a good dude. I met him multiple times. It’s him giving back to his community.”
Moore is hoping that at some point, West will visit Provo and take in a game at the Marriott Center.
“I don’t have his number. That would be kind of nuts,” Moore said. “But I know from people on his staff that he’s very happy for me.”
‘My super power is shooting’
Moore’s dad is 6-foot-6 and his mom is 5-11, and he was always tall for his age. Because of his size advantage over his opponents when he first started playing basketball, he was encouraged to play close to the basket.
“My dad wouldn’t let me shoot 3s. I shot midrange shots,” Moore said. “He would get mad when I got in the perimeter. When you’re in fifth grade, there’s no reason for it.”
But he had a pure shot and by the time he got to eighth grade, his coach recognized that.
“In every practice, we would shoot thousands of 3s as a team. So he saw that,” Moore said. “I shot my first 3 in eighth grade and I’ve been shooting 3s since.”
In his first high school game, as an eighth-grader, he started and he knocked down five 3-pointers.
“I had good form. I just didn’t rep it. Once I started repping it, I just couldn’t miss,” Moore said. “I’m not sure how that works. I started as a post player so that’s why I have a good foundation of good footwork and the ability to score in the post.”
That’s one of the talents that BYU coaches noticed in Moore.
“Coach Pope said my super power is shooting the basketball, putting the ball in the hole. That comes at a premium these days,” he said. “I think that’s a blessing that I’ve been able to learn and take advantage of. It’s taken me places I didn’t think would be possible for me. Especially with my size. I can really stretch the floor and shoot it.”
In high school, Moore shot 41% from 3-point range. He’s skilled in the post as well.
“I’m also able to put the ball on the floor, get down low, and make good moves. My fadeaway is really good. I also have a really high IQ, passing the ball and making the right reads,” he said. “I don’t turn the ball over. I’m not sloppy. I’m not going to dribble it 10-15 times before I do something. I’m going to take three dribbles and get somewhere with it. I’m very purposeful with what I do and meticulous.
“I’m such a good shooter, I can space out the floor. But once those defenses collapse as a shooter, I’ll be able to go down low. Being able to be in the 10-15 foot range and get down low to shoot those floaters and hook shots, and shooting 3s at a high clip.”
Moore said he’s not afraid to take charges either.
“In college, I’m looking to gain some weight and I know that taking charges will keep me on the floor,” he said.
BYU’s style of play fits him well, Moore said.
“As a player like me that can shoot and space the floor, they don’t always have the most athletic teams but they play the smartest and the right way. Those teams are the ones that win and are the most successful. For me, going in, it will be fun to play in that system. It’s all ball movement, cuts, taking advantage of mismatches, being able to play small ball with me. They’ll get some big guys but there will be times in the future when we’ll go small ball and put me at the five. That’s just part of it. It’s a team that’s so versatile. Everyone can dribble, pass and shoot on that team.”
Future in the Big 12
Moore is looking forward to arriving in Provo sometime this summer and hopes to take classes at the Marriott School of Business.
For his freshman season, BYU’s final year in the WCC, Moore is looking forward to playing a bunch of California schools, like Pepperdine, where he took an unofficial recruiting visit while attending Donda Academy. His mom swam at Pepperdine and he knows Waves’ coach Lorenzo Romar “very well.”
“It will be weird playing there next year,” Moore said. “I’ll have a lot of family come out to that one.”
He will be joining a program that will begin play as a member of the Big 12 in 2023-24.
“I’m excited. That was a plus but it wasn’t the main factor in my decision. It was the culture, the coaches, the environment and the school as a whole was the best fit for me,” Moore said. “But now that it’s going to the Big 12, it’s going to be exciting, to play at Kansas, Baylor and even Texas and Oklahoma for a few seasons. Those are things you’ll remember the rest of your life. It will be amazing to say you played in those places and to play against them.”
Moore could be a key piece to the Cougars’ roster moving forward as they prepare for what will be an uber-competitive Big 12 schedule.
“The BYU coaches wanted me and they think I can be very, very good in the future,” he said, “and help this program transition into the Big 12.”