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Moore attended the first week of classes in late August, but then after joining the national team, with its practice and travel schedules, did not return to campus until early October. While overseas, she became an online student, relying on professors’ postings as well as e-mails from classmates to help her keep up with coursework. “I have to adjust to my schedule and make sure every day I do something so it doesn’t pile up,” she said before the team left for Europe.
“She’s very bright, but she’s an incredibly hard worker, too,” says Auriemma. “No one gets a 4.0 [she has a 3.7] without the time and commitment. No one gets a 4.0 because they’re born smart. She was up for that challenge.”
Although basketball will keep her occupied for at least the next decade, Moore is already thinking about becoming a TV basketball analyst when her playing days are over. During the national team exhibitions, she spoke with former UConn star Rebecca Lobo about her job as an analyst with ESPN. Moore is a lot like Lobo was when she was in college: She handles the media with maturity and chooses her words carefully.
Lobo was impressed when the younger woman approached her. “I don’t think a lot of players have their future in mind at this point,” she says. Moore, she adds, is on the right track. “She’s accessible as a player to the media, she says and does the right things and, because of the caliber player she is, she’ll have opportunities when she wants to pursue them,” Lobo said. “She doesn’t know how to do anything halfway.”
So is there still time for fun in her life?
Those who know her well often pause and think before answering that question. Ultimately, though, they say she can have fun, although her determination and focus come to mind first.
“She’s fun to be around, but she’s one of those people who knows what she wants to become and doesn’t let anything change that,” says Montgomery, who played with her for two years. “She doesn’t cut corners. She always does the right thing—she won’t jeopardize her character just because the crowd does something. She won’t go along if she thinks it’s wrong.”
Though Moore will never be elected class clown, Auriemma says sometimes when he has the team to his house, she lets her hair down and can be funny and relaxed. Another way she lets go is by playing the drums. From a musical family, Moore took up the drums when she was 10. She’s never had lessons but has worked at it and taught herself to play by ear.
In a first-person essay she wrote for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, her hometown newspaper, during the 2010 Final Four, she talked about the similarities between playing the drums and playing basketball. “Whenever I can learn a song, I feel like I’m part of the music and I can kind of escape. It’s almost like the feeling in basketball when everyone’s on the same page, flowing right, moving the ball all right. Same with music, when you’re in a good rhythm.”
Her old drum kit is now a half-hour from Storrs in her mother’s basement in Ellington, where Kathryn Moore moved when her daughter started at UConn in the fall of 2007. The two have moved around a lot: from Missouri, where Moore, an only child, was born, to North Carolina, and then Lawrenceville, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta. Kathryn Moore has a Web-based business making drawstring bags in multiple designs.
“Atlanta was a little far away and I wanted to be there to support her to make it easier for her,” says Moore, who named her daughter with writer Maya Angelou in mind. “It has worked out very well—we are very close,” she says, although now she says it’s a little sad that the “whirlwind” college career is nearly over. “The same thing happened in high school—it went by so fast.”
Moore’s father is Mike Dabney, an all-American honorable-mention guard with Rutgers in the mid-1970s. The two have very little to do with each other.
“My mother helped shape me into who I am,” Moore says. “She sacrificed for me and made sure I could live my dream.” Both women recall how Kathryn Moore put up a basket in their apartment to keep the young Maya occupied while she attended to the household.
“It’s a fine line—that difference between giving your kids a little push and helping them, and going overboard,” says Auriemma. “Fortunately, for Maya it’s all been positive.”
One of their most important bonds is their devotion to the World Changers Church International, a large 29-year-old Georgia-based church with several Southern satellite branches, and plans to spread throughout the country. Founded by the Rev. Creflo Dollar, the ministry calls itself a “trailblazer” in its efforts to “preach the gospel and demonstrate the power of the Word.”
“We’ve grown together,” Moore says of the faith she shares with her mother. The two stay connected to the church through online services. “The church made religion ‘real’ for me,” Moore says. If a week goes by when she can’t visit the website, she feels out of sync. “If I miss it, something’s missing,” she says. “So I’ve made it a priority. Everything is different in my life because of my relationship with the Lord. If that’s off, down the line it changes the direction of your life.”
Moore finds time to worship as she has found time for everything else in her life. But Auriemma has another concern for this highly accomplished young woman, who seems old beyond her years.
“The one thing she’s going to have to do is to keep it all somewhat in perspective,” he says of the coming season. “She’ll be a college senior—she should enjoy this year.”