As expected, Lynx pick Moore at No. 1
UConn senior is fourth Huskies player to be selected with the first overall pick
BRISTOL, Conn. -- There wasn't much suspense for Maya Moore, which is pretty much how she likes it. She likes to be a couple of steps ahead, always appearing unsurprised.
When Minnesota made her the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft Monday afternoon, it was as everyone has been expecting for well, years now. The three-time Wade Trophy winner has been the top player in the Class of 2011 since she started her college career at Connecticut.
Two NCAA titles, two other Final Four appearances and a 90-game winning streak later, she became the fourth UConn player to be picked No. 1 in the draft -- following Sue Bird (2002), Diana Taurasi (2004) and Tina Charles (2010).
"I'm a big follower of the WNBA," Moore said. "I've been watching it since I was a little kid. I know a lot about the teams and coaches."
Which means she really does know what she's up against. She's entering this new phase of her career with historical knowledge, and in the Lynx's case, that history is mostly bleak. Moore now has a new challenge: Can she help get the Lynx back into the WNBA playoffs?
Minnesota -- which also drafted Xavier's Amber Harris with the No. 4 overall pick -- has made it to the WNBA postseason just twice: in 2003 and '04. Both times, the Lynx -- an expansion franchise that began play in 1999 -- were barely better than .500: 18-16, which is the best record the team has posted in its 12 seasons.
Cheryl Reeve, in her second season, is the seventh coach/interim coach to try to successfully steer what has been one of the WNBA's least seaworthy vessels. Everything Moore has represented -- winning, winning, winning -- is not what the Lynx have been about.
But Bird went to Seattle and has since won two WNBA titles, same with Taurasi in Phoenix. Charles was the rookie of the year last season with the Connecticut Sun. The UConn pedigree has carried through with many other former Huskies as well, not just the No. 1 picks. Many of them have used what they learned in Storrs to help make the WNBA significantly better.
Reeve knows that picking a UConn star is like investing in the safest possible stock. There is virtually no risk, but potentially a very high reward. And Moore is definitely thinking already about how she can make this pay off big for Minnesota.
"I feel like you can turn some things around pretty quickly," Moore said. "Which gives me some hope. I know there is a lot of talent, and the coaching staff seems dedicated and excited.
"It's a challenge -- but if there's anything I've taken from Connecticut, it's to embrace challenges. To bring a competitive attitude into any place you go, and things have to change."
The Lynx traded their 2010 No. 1 selection (which ended up being Charles) to bring point guard Lindsay Whalen, a Minnesota grad, back to the Twin Cities. That helped boost enthusiasm for a franchise that has struggled to sink deeper roots in the community. But adding Moore -- one of the best players in NCAA women's history -- should further that goal.
She's a name that's bigger than most in women's hoops, and she's just beginning to enter her peak years. Moore has already played with the U.S. national team, helping it win the gold medal at the world championship last fall. She has already gone head-to-head against the best women's pros in the world.
"This level is still unlike any I've played in, because it's the first time that basketball is more a job," Moore said. "I have to get used to that. But I can just be 'me.' And try not to lose what has made me successful at the different levels I've been at. I'll bring everything I have every day."
The Lynx added veteran post Taj McWilliams-Franklin during the offseason. Whalen is entering her eighth season in the league. Seimone Augustus, the overall No. 1 pick in 2006, has battled injuries but is still one of the league's more talented players when healthy. Former UConn enigma Charde Houston, a Huskies senior when Moore was a freshman, has had her moments as a solid WNBA contributor.
On paper, before adding Moore, the Lynx look as if they have the right pieces to at least make a playoff run. Plug in Moore, and the picture looks a whole lot better.
"I definitely adjust quickly," Moore said. "I moved away from Missouri when I was 11, went to four different middle schools, lived in Charlotte, lived in Georgia and then came to Connecticut. The only place I haven't lived in anywhere is the West.
"I like this, it's a new start. It's kind of how my life has gone. Every few years, going to a new place. Every time I've moved, it's always been better."
For Lynx fans, the hope is she stays in Minneapolis a long time, and it gets much better.
Mechelle Voepel, a regular contributor to ESPN.com, can be reached at email@example.com. Read her blog at voepel.wordpress.com.
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