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This was never clearer than in the 2010 national championship game in San Antonio, Texas, when, with her team down by eight at the half to Stanford, Moore scored 11 of the Huskies’ first 17 second-half points to give her team the lead. Eighteen of her total 23 points came in those final 20 minutes. “She came out in the second half and took over. She was saying, ‘Follow me . . . I’ll do this and you guys do your part,’” Auriemma says.
“Maya Moore was the difference,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said after the game. “If she’s on our team, we win. She stepped up and made big plays for them.”
Many who know Moore well point out that she is a 21 going on 30. “I’ve watched her and she never gets rattled,” says Taurasi. “She’s very mature for her age.”
Auriemma says she has a great shot at making the Olympic team, by which time she’ll have more than a year with the WNBA—where she’ll earn about $50,000 a season—and, no doubt, a European season (which can pay quadruple her American salary) behind her. Moore fits in well with the older, established players on the national team, he says. “She’s built like they are, she runs like they do, she shoots like they do and does everything they do.” And the feeling is mutual, he adds. “They acknowledge how good she is and [that] she doesn’t treat herself like a college player. She treats herself like a pro.”
But she still needs to improve if she wants to excel at the next level. “She’s growing but she needs a lot more work,” Auriemma said following a summer exhibition game pitting the U.S. national team against Australia. Moore was the high scorer with 16 points but she also took the most shots (6 for 14), some of which were ill-advised. “She has to do what she thinks she does best. It’s not like she’s going to get better—she has to get smarter. The things she does in college, she can’t get away with at this level.”
“She has all the qualities to fit in,” says Swin Cash, who will be competing with Moore for a spot on the Olympic team. “She wants to continually grow, and being around people with gold medals rubs off.” Cash remembers well what it was like early in her own career when she was going up against the likes of Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoopes, both perennial stars in the WNBA and Olympic medalists many times over. “But going to UConn, you’re already a pro,” Cash continues. “She’s gifted, her body is built for the game and she is intelligent.”
“Maya has all the makings of a great player,” agrees Sue Bird, who is also on the national team. “She rebounds, she creates shots for others, she hustles, she stretches the defense, she can play all positions.” Bird and others compare Moore to Tamika Catchings, 31, the all-American from Tennessee who is one of the best players in the WNBA (twice named league defensive player of the year) and a veteran of two Gold Medal-winning Olympic teams. Like Moore, Catchings is a player who can handle all five positions and plays tough at both ends of the court. Moore looks up to Catchings, and the respect is mutual.
“Maya is obviously a great collegiate player,” Catchings says. “It’s been exciting watching her grow. Watching her is like watching a younger version of me, and that’s what my teammates say, too.”