One of the most impressive traits that Geno Auriemma regularly seems to find in his players is their unselfishness and their willingness to sacrifice their personal statistics for the betterment of the team. The top high school players in the country continue to come to Storrs to annually contend for a national championship and not to lead the nation in scoring.
But there comes a time when Geno wants a player to be more selfish. It happened at numerous points during Diana Taurasi’s career. It’s happening again now with star freshman Maya Moore. In the past two games, he’s felt that she’s tried to hard to get her teammates involved rather than looking to create more scoring opportunities for herself.
Maya has still taken 13 shots in wins over South Carolina and San Diego State, but she has scored 10 and 12 points, respectively, in 60 total minutes of action.
“Whenever Maya Moore’s trying to get everybody else involved, she’s lousy,’’ Geno said this morning following practice. “And that’s what has happened the last couple of games. She’s getting (the ball) like … `well, I want to give it to … I’m not sure who.’ I told her in front of the whole team, `I liked it better when you shot the ball every time you touched it.’ That makes us better. It makes you better. People guard you and then all of a sudden, bam, you find the guy that’s open. When guys are thinking pass or are pass-happy, they’re not as good a player, especially when you’re a really good player.’’
Geno used an example from practice today to reinforce his point. Maya made six straight 3-pointers when the Huskies were working on their halfcourt offense. But when they went fullcourt, she found herself looking to pass at times rather than finish.
“We’re on a transition break, she pulls up at 12 feet …. ahhh, let me give it to Charde who’s 10 feet away, who then throws it up top to Renee, who then calls offense to get the ball back to Maya 12 feet from the basket so she can score,’’ Geno said. “Why? Because, you know, I don’t want to score 50 tonight. Can’t I just score 10 and pass the ball to everybody? No. I want you to get 50. What’s wrong with that? I know guys that if they were 0-for-6 they would take the next six shots they got. And I’ve got a guy 6-for-6 from the 3-point line …’’
I’m sure the rant was more entertaining for the media on hand at Gampel Pavilion than it was for Maya to absorb on the court. But Maya, also, is not pleased with her performance in the last couple of games. She said it has nothing to do with moving into the starting lineup. She really didn’t have an answer. All she said is that it has to change.
“My last two games I haven’t been I guess as offensively in my flow like I have in the first seven games,’’ she said. “I don’t really know. Those two games were just kind of shaky. I really don’t attribute that to starting or not starting. You’re still playing basketball. So hopefully those two games are in the past and I can get into more of an offensive rhythm these next games.’’
Despite her so-called struggles Maya’s still averaging a team-high 16.0 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 22.6 minutes through the first nine games of her career.
FYI: Assistant coach Jamelle Elliott was on a recruiting trip at a tournament in the Washington, D.C. area this week.