Commentary

Maya Moore's Vitale connection

Originally Published: April 2, 2011
By Kaitee Daley | ESPN.com

When it comes to college basketball connections, it's hard to sneak something past Hall of Famer Dick Vitale. After all, he's been analyzing diaper dandies and PTPers for four decades. But while chatting with one of his former players at a function in 2008, Vitale was truly stumped.

"Dick, do you know who my daughter is?" the player asked.

Surprising silence.

[+] EnlargeMichael Dabney
ScarletKnights.comMichael Dabney was a member of the 1975-76 Rutgers team that won 31 straight games.

"Maya Moore," the player said.

Yep. The best-known player in women's college basketball has a little-known connection to men's college basketball history. Moore's father, Michael Dabney, was one of Vitale's prized recruits as an assistant coach at Rutgers in 1972. A high school star in New Jersey, Dabney was a quick and explosive guard that the Rutgers coaching staff dreamed of pairing with national standout Phil Sellers.

Using the prospect of playing together as a point of persuasion, Vitale and head coach Dick Lloyd eventually brought Dabney and Sellers into a Scarlet Knights dream come true. A few years later, the duo helped carry an undefeated Rutgers squad to the 1976 Final Four -- the first in school history. Though they fell to Michigan in the national semifinals, Dabney was a key contributor to the best run that Rutgers men's basketball has ever enjoyed.

Vitale had accepted the head coaching job at the University of Detroit before the Scarlet Knights' impressive season, but in watching Moore take over her sport like few players ever have, he's reminded of that All-American guard from Rutgers.

"I recognize the confidence she has on the court and that same ultra-competitiveness," Vitale said. "Mike could really run the floor in transition, and [Moore] has that same smoothness up and down the court."

But Connecticut's all-time leading scorer holds the definitive edge in one category.

"He couldn't shoot as well as Maya, I'll tell you that!" Vitale recalled with a laugh.

Though the comparison is easy to make, it's not one that comes easily to Moore's family. Dabney didn't become a part of Moore's life until her senior year in high school. And, understandably, Moore hasn't discussed the details of their relatively new relationship. Moore's mother, Kathryn, raised her alone and instilled in her the values that every women's basketball fan in the country hears so much about: maturity, intelligence, intensity, work ethic.

[+] EnlargeMaya Moore
David Butler II/US PresswireMaya Moore's ability to change speed and throw off defenders reminds Dick Vitale of her father, an All-American guard at Rutgers.

"Everyone knows she's a talented player, but she's the whole package away from basketball too. In sports, we need more Maya Moores," Vitale said, in his ever-present enthusiastic tone.

Yet Maya Moore is truly one of a kind. The 3,000-point scorer has carried the Huskies to four straight Big East titles and is now just two games away from winning her third straight national championship. On Saturday, she will likely become the first three-time winner of the Wade Trophy -- the Heisman of women's hoops.

These accolades are indelibly linked to her tireless efforts: the extra shots in the gym, the studying of opponents and game situations. But she's also blessed with natural ability -- pure basketball skill that makes an imposing blocked shot or no-look bounce pass seem almost nonchalant.

And that, Vitale now knows, has been in her blood since day one.

Kaitee Daley is an editor for ESPN.com and can be reached at kaitee.r.daley@espn.com.

Kaitee Daley is an editor for ESPN.com's Instant Awesome content. She has spent time as a social media producer for SportsCenter and loves bringing fun stories to fans.