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Maya Moore, left, with Lynx teammates Seimone Augustus, Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Lindsay Whalen.

Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

Moore returns to Lynx as more aggressive player

  • Article by: ROMAN AUGUSTOVIZ
  • Star Tribune
  • May 7, 2012 - 11:57 PM

After she was named the WNBA's Rookie of the Year and the Lynx won the league title last year, Maya Moore went to Spain. Not for a vacation -- for more basketball.

Ros Casares, based in Valencia, went 48-2, winning the Spanish league and EuroLeague titles. Moore played in 28 of those games starting in January, only one a loss.

So Moore's basketball résumé, a month shy of her 23rd birthday, reads like this: three high school state titles in Georgia, two NCAA titles at the University of Connecticut, one World Championships title, one WNBA title, two overseas titles with a chance at two more championships this year.

Moore, a 6-foot forward, is one of three Lynx on the U.S. team playing in the London Summer Olympics. And the Lynx, of course, could become the first WNBA team to win back-to-back titles since the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001 and '02.

"It could be luck," said Lynx assistant coach Shelley Patterson, asked about the success of Moore's teams. "She could be our lucky charm. If it happens with the Olympics and it happens again this year with us, I am going to have to rub her shoulder and go play the lottery."

Moore would laugh at that remark. She has an appealing sense of humor and a mature perspective on life.

"I try to do a good job of focusing my attention on the important things, not listening to a lot of hype," Moore said. "I always try to represent [myself] well as a person who has been blessed with a lot of gifts and a lot of opportunities."

As soon as Moore arrived in training camp a year ago, practices became more intense.

Moore is determined to improve in her second pro season. She wants to be a better shooter, a smarter passer and a tougher defender.

Patterson said at media day on Monday that Moore, after five days of training camp, looks like a changed player.

"Her balance is much better," Patterson said. "She is getting stronger in going to the paint and not shying away. When she came in last year, she was more of a finesse player."

Moore shot 53.3 percent from the field in EuroLeague games and 47.2 percent on threes in the Spanish league -- both those statistics are more than 10 percent higher than her numbers as a Lynx player.

"Playing overseas has helped me," Moore said. "I'm just having the ball in my hands a little bit more. Just continuing to get comfortable at the pro level as far as the speed and where I am scoring from."

"Her shot selection wasn't great last year," Patterson said. "That had something to do with her field-goal percentage. Now she has a better understanding of our team, an understanding of what we need from her."

Moore averaged 13.2 points as a Lynx rookie but was inconsistent. Five times in a regular-season game she scored 20 points or more; seven times she had seven or fewer.

"I don't think the roles [on the Lynx] are necessarily going to change," said Moore, the only WNBA rookie in 2011 to start every game, "because it worked so well last year."

Moore said the good memories and feelings from last year came back upon her arrival in the Twin Cities.

She is one of five returning starters, including two other soon-to-be Olympians, Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen. Augustus is 28. Whalen turns 30 on Wednesday, a milestone Rebekkah Brunson has already reached. Taj McWilliams-Franklin is 41, the oldest player in the league.

"When you have veterans on your team, you want to play well for them because they don't have many years left." Moore said. "... That is what you want when you are that age. Not that you want to make them sound super old -- this is not going well -- you know what I mean."

Moore cares about her teammates. That's what she means.

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