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Moore elated over Naismith award win

She's already made it quite clear that she's the best player in the state of Georgia.

Now she can be considered the best in every other state as well.

Collins Hill junior sensation Maya Moore was recently chosen as the 2006 Girls Naismith National Player of the Year by the Atlanta Tipoff Club.

It is almost without question the most prestigious award a high school basketball player can win.

"This is the big one," Moore said. "I've gotten a lot of awards around the state and around Gwinnett County, but this is my first National Player of the Year award."

With still another season to play, it almost certainly won't be her last.

Moore has earned countless other accolades during her three star-studded seasons with the Eagles, being named the Daily Post Player of the Year twice and Miss Georgia Basketball as well.

She's widely considered the top junior in the nation and many recruiting experts feel she is the best girls high school basketball player in the country, regardless of class.

The Naismith award certainly does nothing to diminish that notion.

"It's such an honor," Moore said.

"It's really exciting."

For the season, Moore averaged 23.2 points, 11.3 rebounds, 5.4 steals and 4.6 assists in leading the Collins Hill girls to a 31-1 record and their second straight state title.

She performed her best on the biggest stages, dazzling holiday-tournament crowds in Arizona with a 38-point performance against USA Today's No. 1 team Christ the King, which defeated the Eagles in a controversial overtime game. She was the MVP of another holiday tournament in North Carolina and also averaged 31 points in the Eagles' two Class AAAAA Final Four games.

Still, when head coach Tracey Tipton called Moore into the principal's office on Friday to tell her the news, it was completely unexpected.

"I tend to think I'm not the emotional, crying-type," Tipton said, "but before I could get it out and tell her, emotions had overwhelmed me. And I finally told her that she had been selected as the Naismith National Player of the Year."

And when she figured out exactly what her head coach was telling her, what was the star forward's response?

"I was just in shock," Moore said with a laugh. "And I was getting emotional, too. I wasn't expecting it because I'm a junior, and it seems like a lot of awards have this unwritten rule where seniors get looked at first. It was just a wonderful surprise."

Moore, who could join Tennessee's Candace Parker as the only two-time winner if she takes it home again as a senior, is the second Gwinnett product in as many years to win the coveted award.

Last year, South Gwinnett star Louis Williams was chosen as the top boys player in the nation as well.

The Naismith Award is handed out by the Atlanta Tipoff Club, which uses a nationwide poll of prep basketball analysts, key members of the media and college and high school coaches to assist in selecting the winner.

The award has been given out since 1987, and the roster of recipients features names like Lisa Leslie, Chamique Holdsclaw, Tamika Catchings and Diana Taurasi.

And now that list includes a humble girl from Suwanee, who still has one more year to tack on to an already legendary career.

"Maya Moore makes a choice to do the things that average people don't do," Tipton said. "She never becomes content with where she is, and that's just the truth and that's what makes her so rare.

"The average person, when they find success, has a natural tendency to become content or complacent where they are. And that's not her. Her aspirations are to be the best player she can be."

And as a result, she has been named the best player in the country.