The more sophomore point guard Moriah Jefferson tried to comprehend why she could not seem to get settled in at UConn last season the more perplexing the situation became.
Jefferson was a high school All-American. She possesses exceptional quickness. She can distribute the ball, get to the basket and score and play tenacious defense. However, aside from assorted points throughout the season she felt like did not display her true ability.
The experience was trying for Jefferson. Yet, she has effectively learned from it and is poised to prove that she can be an impact player for the Huskies.
“For me, basketball has always been like second-nature,’’ Jefferson said. “Except when I got here I had to step back a second and I had to realize, `This is what you need to do. This is what you do.’ And I overthought it way too much. Now I think I just wiped it all clean from my memory. I’m like, `OK, it happened. You did this. You did that. Learn from that.’ So now it’s just me coming out as a real player.’’
Judging by her play in pick-up games this preseason, Jefferson has made progress. Her teammates have taken notice. So too has UConn coach Geno Auriemma.
Jefferson will get her first chance to publicly display her newfound confidence and aggressive approach tonight during First Night festivities at Gampel Pavilion. Doors will open at 6. The event will feature an autograph session and an inter-squad game with the UConn men’s team.
Also, UConn Class of 2014 commits Sadie Edwards, Courtney Ekmark and Gabby Williams will be on campus making their officials visits. They will be joined by 2014 target A’ja Wilson, a 6-foot-4 wing from Hopkins, S.C. who is regarded as the top player in the class.
“I feel a lot more relaxed,’’ Jefferson said. “I know the plays. I know personnel. I know everything. I’m in great shape. So it’s just basketball. It’s what I love to do. So now it’s just doing it instead of trying to adjust. I’m already here. I already know what’s going on. So now just play.’’
Jefferson averaged 4.7 points, 1.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.3 steals in 17.4 minutes last season. She was one of two players (Kelly Faris) to appear in all 39 games for the Huskies and was named to the Big East All-Freshman Team.
It was primarily during the NCAA tournament when Jefferson provided a glimpse of what she can provide. She averaged 6.8 points on 52.8 percent shooting from the field, 2.0 assists and 1.8 steals in 19.8 minutes as UConn rolled to its NCAA record-tying eighth national championship.
Jefferson scored a season-high 16 points in 27 minutes in the first round against Idaho and added 10 points in 26 minutes in wins over both Maryland and Kentucky in the Bridgeport regional.
“Based on what the end of last year looked like she certainly has a reference point,’’ Auriemma said. “And just watching her a little bit in the preseason she looks like a different player, mainly because it’s a different mindset. When you go from that freshman to sophomore year a lot of things change and you see things in a different light. Things start to slow down for you a little bit. And I thought that was one of the problems that she struggled with last year was everything was a little too fast. And that’s not good when you’re really fast. And I see her as being a lot more comfortable right now on the floor than I saw her last year.’’
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