From Jefferson City, Mo. to Storrs, Conn., there have been many people that have touched the life of Maya Moore. They have helped her grow as an individual and as an athlete, helped her form her core values and shape her work ethic and passion to succeed in life and athletics.
Moore has become an iconic young woman over the course of her career with the UConn women’s basketball team. She is recognized as the top player in the sport today.
Yet, while many people have made an impact in her life there is one person that stands above the rest. It is a person who has been with her every day of her life, helping her to overcome the hurdles that life put in her path. It is her mother, Kathryn. Maya’s teammate in life.
“She’s more than a teammate,’’ Maya Moore said. “I know she’s going to be on my side. We’d do anything for each other. And definitely a teammate as far as you work hard with your teammates … You have preseason workouts and you go through crazy practices and when games come you feel that sense of `that’s my sister out here.’ So I feel the same way with my mom. It’s like we’ve gone through a lot of things. We moved when I was a kid and just kind of being on our own for a little while. We’ve been through a lot of things that brought us closer. So it’s kind of like that unspoken bond that you know you have with that person that I have with my mom.’’
The impenetrable bond between mother and daughter was evident minutes after Maya was born June 11, 1989. A nurse wanted to take Maya to the nursery, which would allow Kathryn to get some rest.
Kathryn was not concerned with getting any rest. What she needed was to hold Maya and to have her only child near. As a single mother, she has raised Maya to be a strong, intelligent young woman with a future that seems to be without limits.
Maya will be named a four-time first team All-American next month. She will be the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft April 11. Endorsement deals are certain to follow.
“We’ve been very close since the very beginning,’’ Kathryn Moore said. “I consider her more than just a daughter. We’re very best friends. We’re partners. Hopefully, that will continue depending on how things unfold at the next level. I look forward to continue to be there as a partner and helping her in whatever she decides to get into.’’
Kathryn and Maya lived in Jefferson City, Charlotte, N.C. and Lawrenceville, Ga. until Maya graduated from Collins Hill High School in Georgia. Each time Kathryn was looking out for Maya, looking to the best opportunities that would allow her to grow on many levels.
Maya tried her best to put up an independent front when the time to head off to college was closing in. She was going to make the trip by herself. However, she lowered that front in a hurry once she committed to play at UConn.
“When I actually verballed I’m like, `You’re moving, right,’’’ Maya Moore said. “Because her and I … We’ve just been traveling a lot. She’s not afraid to move. I’m not afraid to move. But it did help the fact that I knew she’d be willing to come up. And I think it was a great decision because it made my life a lot smoother and allowed me to focus a lot on school and basketball.’’
Together, they have found another home in Connecticut over the past four years as both have become a part of the UConn community. Kathryn has been on hand for the home games and local regular season road games of significance, such as the game against Ohio State Dec. 19 at Madison Square Garden in New York City when UConn tied UCLA’s record with its 88th straight win. She has also been in attendance at the NCAA regionals and the Final Four in Tampa, Fla., St. Louis, Mo. and San Antonio.
When they walk onto the court together at Gampel Pavilion Monday night during Senior Night festivities it will punctuate the journey the two have been a part of now for nearly 22 years. Mike Dabney, Maya’s father and a basketball star at Rutgers in the mid-1970s, attends games. But he still does not occupy an active role in her life. It remains a subject that Maya prefers not to discuss.
“I really haven’t thought about (Senior Night) a whole lot,’’ Maya Moore said. “I have thought about it in that I know I’m going to be crying. Ugly cry. But it’ll be really special to have her there to share in it and to be right there with me. I think it’s really special to how we do it with our parents. It’s going to be a special moment for her. I know it’s going to bring her a lot of joy. And it’s cool because she is a part of this community now too. So I know people will embrace her. So that’s even more special I think the fact that she’s a part of this community and gets to share in it and know that are a lot of them are clapping for her.’’
The night will also serve as an official coronation for Maya as she will become the 13th player inducted into the Huskies of Honor. It is fitting, too, that Kathryn will be with her to share in this moment reserved for only the greatest players in the history of the program. The ovation should be thunderous.
“She is definitely a great young woman,’’ Kathryn Moore said. “I’m very proud of her. The type of young woman she’s grown to be it’s fulfilling to see that she’s having an impact off the court. Teammates and her community and her family and I think that’s something that every parent would want is to see that they are making a difference in the environments that they’re living in.’’
Fellow senior Lorin Dixon has been roommates with Maya for four years. She has seen firsthand the relationship shared between Maya and Kathryn. It’s a relationship she admires.
“They have a really special relationship, her and her mom,’’ Dixon said. “They are extremely close. And that’s something that I think helps her a lot. When you have somebody in your life like that that is always there for you every step of the way it’s kind of like somebody she can always fall back on, somebody she knows is always in her corner and will always be there. So their relationship is really special.’’
Kathryn had witnessed Maya achieve success at various levels while she was growing up. Maya won her first national championship of any kind on the AAU circuit as a member of the Georgia Magic when she was 14. She won three state championships at Collins Hill.
But despite this level of success in the past, Kathryn could not have predicted that Maya would reach the heights she has reached with the Huskies. She is considered one of the best players to ever play the game.
“When she was very young I saw greatness,’’ Kathryn Moore said. “Anything that she was to do with her career or her life I think she would do great things. I never imagined, though, that it would be quite like this. It was just amazing to me. I guess amazing and awesome are the words that I would use that it continued to grow and grow.’’
Moore is the all-time leading scorer in UConn and Big East history with 2,848 points. She is currently ranked 13th all-time in Division I in scoring and is on pace to become only the seventh player to reach 3,000 points.
Moore is also the only women’s basketball player in Division I history to reach 2,500 points, 1,000 rebounds (1,190), 500 assists (522), 250 steals (289) and 150 blocked shots (193). She is ranked second in team history in made 3-pointers (293), third in rebounding, fourth in steals and blocks and eighth in assists.
When it comes to Kathryn’s perception of Maya and her unworldly success, she views her as her daughter and as a great player.
“Both, absolutely. Because I definitely see her as one of the great players,’’ Kathryn Moore said. “I do see her like that. Although, there are some great kids out there. So I just like to see that maybe she’s had an impact on raising the level of the game and taking a part in that and seeing that the young ones coming behind her that are being pushed to do more and more great things. So I’m hoping that’s the impact she’s had.’’
The impact Maya has had on the game is undeniable. She will leave UConn as the most decorated player in team history. She is destined to be a member of the 2012 United States Olympic team and beyond. And Kathryn has been, and will be, by her side.
Maya said that her mother has been the single biggest influence on her life. Their relationship is one that she has always cherished.
“It’s hard to think about because she’s just there,’’ Moore said. “You don’t really think about all the ways she impacts you or all the ways she’s impacted me. But I know that she’s given me a good home environment to grow up in. I always felt like I had a safe, healthy, loving home with my mom. And just seeing how dedicated she was to me and our family, just working hard every day to forwarding my basketball dreams has made me want to work that much harder. I know she finds joy in seeing me succeed. I’d do anything for her.’’