My path to the pros

AP Photo/Stacy Bengs

Maya Moore and the Lynx went 3-1 against Sue Bird's Storm this season.

The beginning

I played anything that had a ball or you could score in. My mom signed me up for gymnastics when I was 4. It kept me active -- maybe a little too active. I would always do cartwheels when waiting for the balance beam. I also played on a competitive softball team from 9 to 11. I was our shortstop initially, but we finally realized that to hold my attention, I had to be the catcher. It rained one day while we were playing and I was like "I don't know about this playing in the rain, I need to be inside with AC."

Basketball was always my favorite. I started out as a toddler with a Nerf hoop, and then played in my driveway, at recess, wherever I could. I've always been tall and athletic and loved playing with the boys. In second grade, I tried to be on a basketball team of 10-year-olds, but they said I was too young. So, the next year, at 8, I played on my first AAU team, the Jefferson City (Mo.) Basketball Club. That's when I first started to feel the pressure to perform.

The middle school days

I spent the first 11 years of my life in Jefferson City. Then we lived in Charlotte for a year before moving to Atlanta. My mom would always think and do her research before we moved to ensure the area had a good academic school and a good basketball team. I was always the younger one trying to play catch-up to the older girls. I stood out because I was really aggressive and pretty athletic. I'd shoot these airballs but I'd shoot them aggressively. After age 12, my body and my skills started to come together. I was 5'10", and that's when my AAU team won the national championship and colleges started showing interest. That's flattering in eighth grade. I watched all the schools on TV -- UConn, Tennessee, Georgia, Duke. My mom said, "You can totally do this." She got me thinking about colleges, and she helped me think ahead about what schools I'd want to go to. It was an eye-opening time. You're not even in high school, and you start thinking about being a college athlete.

The high school years

I was a track athlete in high school [Collins Hill High; Suwanee, Ga.]. I broke the school record in the high jump my sophomore year and finished second at the state meet. I was pretty upset. The girl who beat me was shorter than me. I felt like I should've been able to jump higher than her.

The next year, I decided to focus solely on basketball. The basketball offseason overlapped with track, and I wanted to be in the gym instead of at track practice. I was always in the gym after school. I worked with some of my coaches and AAU teammates in between seasons, and fixed a hitch in my shot. Every level that I got to, I was preparing for the next thing. I knew if I stayed on the right track, I could be a pro.

More rising stars retrace their paths to the pros:

Maya Gabeira | Paul Goldschmidt | Brandon Jennings | Cam Newton | Jozy Altidore | Ashton Eaton | Maya Moore | Michael Crabtree | Ian Kinsler | C.J. Wilson | Nnamdi Asomugha | Bernard Pollard | Richard Seymour | Michelle Wie | Brittany Lincicome | Gordon Hayward | DeMarcus Cousins | Matt Flynn | Jairus Byrd | Rey Maualuga | Domata Peko | Le'Ron McClain | Glen Perkins | Jeff Halpern | Jay Feely

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