Collins Hill graduate Maya Moore, of the Minnesota Lynx WNBA team, urges on her teammates during a game against the Atlanta Dream Saturday at Phiips Arena. Moore recently won a gold medal at the London Olympic Games.
ATLANTA --This success of late, even for Maya Moore, is astounding.
In slightly more than 10 months, the former Collins Hill High School star won her first WNBA title with the Minnesota Lynx, earned the league's rookie of the year honor, won Spanish and Euroleague titles with Ros Casares and won an Olympic gold medal with the U.S. Women's Basketball National Team. Those victories came after a University of Connecticut career that saw the four-time All-American win more games than any player in college basketball history.
"It's been an amazing year," said Moore, in town Saturday for a nationally televised ESPN game against the Atlanta Dream. "I couldn't have dreamed how awesome it's been, having so many great opportunities within the last year. To do some history-making things, breaking records. It's just been a whirlwind of a year."
The latest victory, an Olympic gold earlier this month in London, was obviously special.
Moore was one of tournament's top players as the Americans cruised to another gold, solidifying her status as one of the world's best in women's basketball. She also shared the experience with her mother Kathryn, who was in England for the duration of the Olympics, and her grandparents.
The 23-year-old hasn't been back from the Olympics for too long --Saturday's game was just her fourth since the WNBA season resumed after an Olympic break --and that made her weekend visit to Atlanta more special. She showed the gold medal to many of her family members for the first time Friday night.
"They were just so proud and excited," Moore said. "They took pictures and told me how proud they are of me. It's a good feeling to have that gold medal. I think everybody realizes what that gold medal means."
The Olympic schedule was pretty hectic --games every other day and practices in between --so Moore's experience was mostly limited to her own sport. She did manage to watch some beach volleyball and men's basketball games, including the Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and the Americans' victory in the gold medal game. She stayed in England a day longer than most of her teammates before a return to Minnesota.
Moore was a star last season as a WNBA rookie, but she has elevated her game in nearly every area for her second pro season. The 6-foot forward's averages are up in scoring (15.5 to 13.2), rebounding (5.3 to 4.6), assists (3.4 to 2.6), field-goal percentage (48.2 to 43.9), 3-point percentage (44.7 to 36.9) and free-throw percentage (86.2 to 78.7).
For the second straight year, she has the WNBA's top-selling jersey, which was announced by the league earlier this week. She also has a lucrative deal with Nike's Jordan Brand, which made her the first-ever women's player sponsored by Michael Jordan's signature line.
"I do my best to make sure I take advantage of all the opportunities by staying focused, working hard, taking care of my body and being a good teammate," Moore said. "I've had some awesome teammates and I've had a very blessed year. I feel like I've gotten a lot better in the last year, too, at getting comfortable at the pro level and how my game fits in at this level."
Like her past visits to Atlanta with UConn and the Lynx, Moore got plenty of support from the local fans Saturday in a return to what she calls "one of her two homes." She considers Minnesota home during the WNBA season, but also keeps ties to the Atlanta area. She shares a home in Smyrna with her mother when she isn't traveling the world for basketball.
More travels are in store later this year when Moore joins a new team. Ros Casares won't field a Spanish or Euroleague team this season, so Moore recently signed with Shangxu Xing Rui Flame, a team out of Taiyuan, China.
Atlanta may not seem as exciting as some of the other places she has visited lately, including Euroleague games all over that continent, but Moore still relishes the trips to where she grew up.
"There's nothing like home," Moore said. "I have so many great memories of here in high school and middle school. The support was great. It was an awesome place to play basketball. Every time I come back, I see a familiar face that I haven't seen in a long time just because I've been so busy. It's always a fun place to play because you know so many people who support you are here."