Minnesota Lynx's Maya Moore makes a pass on the run against the Seattle Storm earlier this season in Seattle.
Even at the highest college level, there were times when Maya Moore's talent was too much for her foes to overcome. She simply had too much skill and athletic ability for a handful of overmatched teams on Connecticut's schedule.
Those days are over now. There are no breaks, no blowout victories.
A WNBA rookie, Moore now faces players night in and night out that test her abilities more than ever. Passes have to be crisper. Decisions must be made quicker. Shots are tougher to get off.
"The pressure's on because you've got people challenging you at the highest level and that forces you to adjust and play at a higher level," said Moore, whose Minnesota Lynx team plays Sunday at Philips Arena against the Atlanta Dream. "Sometimes I get in trouble and turn the ball over, but most of all it just pushes me to rise up and play the best I can."
The former Collins Hill star entered the WNBA this summer with extreme expectations, carrying the burden of being the league's No. 1 draft pick and the first-ever female representative of Nike's Jordan Brand. If that's affected her, she's hid it well.
Moore averages 14.5 points, 5 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.2 steals for the Lynx (3-1), riding a three-game winning streak since a season-opening loss to the Los Angeles Sparks. The 6-foot forward had a season-high 21 points in her WNBA debut, then had her first off night as a pro last week with seven points on 2 of 10 shooting vs. Tulsa.
But she bounced back with 14 points (on 7 of 10 shooting) and six rebounds in the next game, a win over Seattle. And just like in college, when UConn was 150-4 in her career with two national titles, she is winning.
"We've been playing pretty well," Moore said. "I'm not saying I'm surprised by it. It's what we expected but you never know what can happen. We're happy that we've gotten off to this start."
A stern test for the Lynx comes Sunday with a trip to play the Dream, preseason favorites for the WNBA's Eastern Conference champions. It's an even more important trip for Moore in that it's her first homecoming trip as a pro.
She likened the trip to the one earlier this year with UConn, which played at Georgia Tech in front of a large crowd of Moore's supporters. Another large turnout is expected at Philips this weekend to see the Georgia-raised superstar, one of only two four-time All-Americans in the history of women's basketball.
"Right now it's in the hundreds (of family and friends committed to coming Sunday)," Moore said. "I'm not really sure how many. I don't really want to put a limit on it. I want to get as many there as possible."
One person who will definitely be there is Kathryn Moore, her mother. Kathryn moved to Connecticut to follow her daughter's college career, but recently moved back to the Atlanta area.
Moore has her own apartment in Minnesota, but don't be surprised to see her in Atlanta during her free time to visit her mother and others close to her.
"(Atlanta's) a home base we both like," said Moore, who turned 22 last weekend. "(Kathryn) does come up and see me up here. Mom's welcome to stay and go as she pleases up here. Atlanta's a good place for us. Our family's there. Our church is there. We have a lot of reasons to love Atlanta."
Moore hopes to feel some of that love on Sunday. Though it's a Dream home game, a large fan base is expected to be rooting on the Lynx. Her family and friends here typically root for whatever team she plays on.
That was the case when UConn played at Tech earlier this year, and likely will be the case this weekend when she play at Philips for the first time.
"It should be very similar (to playing at Tech)," Moore said. "I had a lot of friends and family supporting me. They helped us out. Even though we were on the road, it kind of felt like a home game."