Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

USA Basketball Training: Maya Moore Executes Her Game Easier Than Trying to Describe It

( Guru note: Enjoy another three-part package all below from crab country )

By Rob Knox (@knoxrob 1)

Maya Moore’s game is so indescribable that she can’t even describe it.

When the topic was broached with the affable Moore following Monday’s USA Women’s World Championship Training practice session at the Naval Academy’s Halsey Gym, the 2014 WNBA MVP from the Minnesota Lynx had a blank expression on her face.

It took her five seconds to begin the difficult task of describing her amazing season.

“Let’s see,” Moore said. “I tried to play in a relentless manner.

"Whatever the task is and I just want to go at it at full force. I tried to be a threat from everywhere on the floor and tried to find creative ways to score inside and mid-range from outside.

"I also tried to set screens, get steals, block shots, rebound the ball, run and create for my teammates. It was really fun to have my hands in so many aspects of the game and the team that I am on allowed me to do that.”

Moore was a basketball version of Zoe Saldana’s Colombia character: Graceful, charming and calculating with an assassins’ mentality. She turned the basketball court into her personal playground this season doing essentially what she wanted whenever she pleased. Her regular season was one for the record books.

Playing in all 34 games, Moore paced the league in scoring (23.9 ppg), the third-highest average in WNBA history behind the 25.3 ppg and 24.1 ppg by sister UConn alum Diana Taurasi in 2006 and 2008, respectively.

The fourth-year pro became the first player in league history to post four consecutive games of 30 or more points. She finished the regular season with a league-record 12 games of 30-plus points, topping the previous mark of 10 set by Taurasi in 2008.

This season, Moore guided the Lynx to a 25-9 record and the Western Conference’s No. 2 seed for the playoffs, despite the club being without injured All-Stars Rebekkah Brunson and Seimone Augustus for 23 and 10 games, respectively.

The Lynx became the first franchise in the 18-year history of the WNBA to win at least 25 games in four straight years.

“I was grateful to help my team when they needed me and we were very injured,” Moore said. “We had some players who were not at 100 percent to start the season.

"I was fortunate to be able to help us in whatever ways that was necessary. I have such good players and staff around me that I am able to often times to score the ball.

"That’s what happened a lot at the beginning of the season and on through the rest. I was proud of the way our team overcame all of the issues and challenges that we faced this year and never quit.”

Moore helped the Lynx advance to the Western Conference Finals where they lost in a three-game series to the Phoenix Mercury. While the scoring was nice, the injuries to Brunson and Augustus gave Moore an opportunity to expand facets of her game.

“It was one of those situations where every year I am expected to do more and lead at an even higher level,” Moore said.

“I knew that leading by example was more important than ever and that’s what I tried to focus on this year. If there was something that needed to be said, I said it and if it was something that required me to listen and follow through with the coaches instructions then that’s what I focused on.

"Whatever the moment called for that’s what I tried to do. I also wanted to bring energy, encourage my teammates and give us a lot of confidence when we’re on the court.”

Incidentally, both her coaches are here in UConn's Geno Auriemma, the head coach of the USA squad and Minnesota's Cheryl Reeve, the former La Salle star from South Jersey.

Moore was also happy with the improvement in her defense as well.

While her scoring earned plenty of attention and many highlights, the 6 foot Moore was also a human handcuff this season, locking down defenders and sprinting into passing lanes like a greyhound for steals that led to crowd-pleasing layups. Moore had a much easier time talking about her defensive approach.

“I tried to anticipate because I am a very instinctual player,” Moore said. “I combined discipline with my instincts. Sometimes that gets me in trouble but at some point, it’ll help me out. I like to take some chances, be active and use my length. I am learning to stay more disciplined. It also helps knowing my opponent and being smart.”

With defenses focused on stopping the high-flying Moore, they couldn’t. Seriously adjectives like super, phenomenal and sensational did little justice to adequately describe her many scoring shows this summer that included a career-high 48 point effort against Atlanta, the second most points scored in a WNBA game in history.

Moore also scored a Lynx-franchise record 812 points and was named WNBA Player of the Week five times, including a league record four consecutive weeks. She won three of the four Western Conference Player of the Month awards.

“I felt like was able to execute better in one-on-one situations,” Moore said. “I feel like I got to free-throw line better than I have in my career. I also focused on being more diverse in my scoring and being active on defense. I feel like I took a step forward in that area this year.”

Only 25 years old, Moore is one of the best basketball players on the planet, which is scary considering her age. Even though this is the first time in Moore’s career, she’s not participating in the WNBA Finals, the consolation prize of representing Team USA is pretty neat.

Already, the gifted Moore is one of eight players to have earned a World Championship gold medal, Olympic gold medal, NCAA title and WNBA championship.

She’s one of five UConn alumnae that can make that claim along with Kara Wolters, Swin Cash, Sue Bird and Taurasi. The other women who accomplished that are Tamika Catchings, Sheryl Swoopes and Cynthia Cooper.

Moore has yet to lose a game against international competition as a member of the USA National Team, winning 17 games between the 2010 FIBA World Championships and 2012 Olympics.

She is part of a pool of 24 amazingly talented women’s basketball players trying to make the 12-man USA World Championship roster that will head to Istabul, Turkey after a training stop in Paris to compete in the World Championships, which runs from Sept. 27-Oct. 5.

The 17 players present at Naval Academy will play an inter-squad exhibition showcase Thursday night at the University of Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center at 7 p.m. in a game that will be televised by ESPN2.

“It’s really fun to be teammates with some of the players that we’re constantly figuring out how to beat,” Moore said. “To be on the same team is great and you could feel the energy in the building during practice. I always look forward to this time because you get a chance to get to know some of the best athletes in the world. For me, it’s about learning, soaking it in and competing at a high level.”

Of course for Moore, it’s much easier to perform at an elite level than actually being forced to describe it.

- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad


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