|ESPN.com: NCW Preview 2008||[Print without images]|
Often when we're putting together our season preview, we look back at how we did things in previous years. And in trying to come up with some clever way to announce Connecticut sophomore Maya Moore as ESPN.com's preseason player of the year (well, there you have it), we glanced at our story on the same subject for last season.
And then it came to us. The torch is being passed from a two-time champion superstar to a budding star loaded with similar high expectations. And like Candace Parker, our player of the year the past two seasons, Moore might be poised to take the same path as Parker: leading her storied program back to the promised land in just her second season.
"Quite simply," ESPN.com's Charlie Creme writes, "Moore is the best player on the best team and is the chief reason the Huskies are considered the clear-cut preseason No. 1.
And just like UConn, Moore was a unanimous pick among the five women's basketball contributors at ESPN.com. The 6-foot wing averaged 17.8 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.7 steals, 1.6 blocks and 29.5 minutes last season, and shot 54.3 percent from the field, 42 percent from 3-point range (73 of 174) and 74 percent at the free throw line. Her 678 points were just 16 short of Kara Wolters' UConn single-season record. Moore, who helped lead the Huskies to the national semifinals, also became the first freshman in Big East men's and women's history to win league player of the year honors. She was the first UConn frosh to be named a State Farm and AP first-team All-American. In fact, she was just the second freshman in history to earn the AP accolade."Last year, Moore played with poise well beyond what could be expected even from a superstar rookie," Mechelle Voepel writes. "Now, she has that season of experience and just a little extra fire from falling short of a national title. Plus, UConn's personnel should allow her to be an even more difficult matchup problem for any opponent."
|Maya Moore is only a sophomore, but she was ESPN.com's unanimous pick for preseason player of the year.|
Although her game appears effortless, Moore regularly puts out more effort than anybody else on the court ("She understands the best actually work the hardest," Voepel continues). Yet, Creme notes, she "can dominate without removing herself from the team concept."
Beth Mowins appreciates that humility, too.
"Moore is motivated, ambitious, humble and a hard worker," she said. "Moore is a polished performer with strong fundamentals on both ends of the court, a proven scorer on the perimeter and in transition and is improving her defensive skills."
Only time will tell, but we're betting Graham Hays is on to something: "Moore has the potential to stand with the best ever by the time she's done."
Still, perhaps the highest compliment bestowed on Moore came from her coach, as detailed by Voepel in a column earlier this week:
Coach Geno Auriemma, famous for coming up with funny barbs about everybody -- and lots of them if you're a barb-magnet -- seems rather devoid of quips about Moore.
"I think the possibilities for a player like that are somewhat limitless," he said, "because she is a really good passer, a great shooter and she has tremendous pride. Her work ethic is phenomenal."
ESPN.com women's basketball editor Melanie Jackson and columnists Graham Hays, Mechelle Voepel, Charlie Creme and Beth Mowins contributed to this report.