Moore than you know
PHILADELPHIA -- Up on the podium after UConn beat Duke to reach the Final Four (again) this year, a reporter asked senior Maya Moore how she hurt her knee in the win. Moore started to say it was a Blue Devils knee colliding with her own, and coach Geno Auriemma leaned over and whispered something.
Moore looked as if she wanted to swat a gnat.
"It wasn't, I promise you," Moore said firmly, answered the question and then tried to stifle a smile.
Auriemma had tweaked Moore by suggesting she had hit her own knee with her other knee, and it provided one of the few truly candid moments in her press conference.
"She's very private, she's very closed, and her personality comes out on the court and when she is with her teammates off the court," Auriemma said. "But most other times she's Maya Moore -- she's running for president."
No doubt she'd win Connecticut.
When Moore was a freshman in 2008, the Boston Globe ran a feature with the headline speculating she could be the best female player ever. Did we mention she was a freshman? Some pundits already have her in the pantheon with Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoopes as she heads into the Final Four this weekend.
Her mother, Kathryn, said the world sees only the public version of Moore. Her daughter also plays the drums. And she's got a knack for being in front of the camera, ever since she played a wayward child in a church movie.
"What you guys see is not half of who she is, not half," Kathryn Moore said. "She's got an amazing sense of humor, and she loves to have fun. So when I see her on interviews, I'm like, 'OK, she's very composed.' Once you get to know her one-on-one, you see another side of her. Her teammates talk about that."
The Huskies have reached the Final Four in what is, for them, a down year. In a close game against Georgetown in the regional semifinal, just six UConn women played -- only Lorin Dixon came off the bench. That's not a lot of depth for so much success. A Division I-record winning streak of 90 straight games ended against Stanford in late December, but that remains UConn's only loss of the season.
On Tuesday, in the regional-final victory over Duke, Moore scored the 3,000th point of her college career. The UConn fans, apparent math experts, stood up to celebrate the moment it happened. Afterward, Moore was characteristically understated about the achievement.
"Really exciting to be able to be at a program where I've been able to flourish as an offensive player," she said.
She didn't let on how much she wanted it to happen that night. Moore had come out of the game, a 75-40 rout, a bit earlier -- when she had exactly 2,998 points to her name. This is how Auriemma described the moments before he put her back in the game to get the milestone.
"I said, 'Are you done?' And she's like, 'Yeah.' I said, 'Good, you're done for the night? That's it?'
"'No, no, no, I want to play.' I said, 'You're sure?' 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm good.'
"So I put her in, and typical Maya, you know, drama queen, as soon as she knocks in the bucket, she runs down and points to her knee and says, 'Take me out, take me out!'
"You guys don't understand what I go through here, man."
Auriemma won't get much sympathy for having to put up with Moore, an excellent player whose composure he compares with Diana Taurasi's. But all good things must come to an end.
Moore's college career will end in the next week, one way or another, but Kathryn Moore can already see beyond that horizon to a professional career, perhaps a television opportunity. She has already pictured herself watching WNBA games and perhaps visiting overseas if her daughter chooses to play for, say, an Italian league in the offseason.
Whatever comes to pass for Maya Moore, her mother is continually amazed by how far she has come.
"They are your kids, they continue to blow your mind," Kathryn said. "You just open your mind and hope they continue to do great things."