Maya Moore does make you wonder. Do championships just follow her or is she somehow singularly responsible for them, a player so inherently gifted that teams play better with her and because of her?
One thing is certain: Her report card is filled with gold stars from high school to USA Basketball, to UConn and the WNBA, to the Olympics and now China. All she does is win championships.
Thursday at the Mohegan Sun Arena, the Minnesota Lynx beat the Connecticut Sun, 91-77, and Moore was one of five players in double-figures with 17 points, five rebounds and five assists in 33 minutes.
The win improved the hold Minnesota (19-7) has in first place in the Western Conference and solidified Moore’s credentials as a possible MVP candidate. Moore is averaging 17.8 points and 6.2 rebounds and shooting 44 percent from three-point range.
“I feel like I am coming into my own more,” Moore said. “The third year in the league is such a big difference in terms of my comfort and finding the rhythm in what my life has become right now. But I am still trying new things and I grow. The more opportunities and resources that come my way, the best I will try to do with them.”
If she wins the award, the four-time college All-American, UConn’s all-time leading scorer and former Rookie of the Year will wear the crown now perched on her former Huskies’ teammate, Tina Charles of the Sun.
Moore said Thursday her life is typically busy, but immensely satisfying.
“Being a professional athlete is a process that you learn as time goes on,” Moore said. “I was so prepared for the basketball aspect by going to UConn. And you learn a lot about how to be a role model because you are such a public figure when you play there. You learn how to be gracious and bring people into your life.
“But to me, being a pro athlete is mostly about being an adult, learning how to pay your bills and handle the responsibilities of life. There are no more college per diems. You have to handle your own money and learn how to live in many different places and homes.”
She will be hosting a skills camp this weekend in Minnesota for young female players which she is excited about.
“We’ll be having about 45 girls there, ages 12 to 17,” Moore said. “We’re going to get after it in the gym. We’re going to have a classroom segment where they are going to learn about leadership and team work, character how to help build a team. There’s going to be information about nutrition and a guest speaker from the Jordan Brand [to address marketing a promotion].
“I know when I was that age I was interested in soaking up any kind of information I could from anyone who was willing to talk to me and looked up to.”
Her success in college created a marketing opportunity with the Jordan Brand. Her success in the WNBA created a chance to explore a new frontier for women’s basketball players in China. And in her first season in Asia, she was nothing short of cultural phenomenon.
On February 5, Moore scored 34 points (including a perfect 14-of-14 from the line) and grabbed 16 rebounds to lead her Shanxi Xing Rui Flame over Liz Cambage’s Zhejiang Far East in the deciding game of the China Women’s League Championship on February 5.
“I never aniticipate playing in China, but it was an awesome opportunity. I am so glad it was presented to me,” Moore said. “They love basketball. And now they are just getting a little taste of the women’s game.”
In the previous game of the series, Moore scored 43 points with 12 rebounds and 11 assists, somehow managing to overcome Cambage’s 56 points and 16 rebounds.
Shortly thereafter, Moore, who averaged 38.7 points and 12.5 rebounds for Shanxi Xing Rui, announced that she had signed a long-term deal to play in China following her WNBA seasons. There, according to a WNBA insider, Moore makes nearly $1 million a year.
In China, Moore played for a Spanish head coach who spoke halting English. She was surrounded by a Korean teammate who spoke some English but no Chinese and Chinese teammates who spoke only basic English. Instruction was communicated by three separate translators.
“We had the connection of the court, which was very cool,” Moore said.
Carter rejoins Sun
To help add backcourt depth, the Sun will bring point guard Sydney Carter back this weekend. Carter played in six games for the Sun and averaged 4.5 points per game. She also shot 33 percent from beyond the arc before being released when Renee Montgomery and Tan White returned from injuries in mid-July.