UConn women’s notebook: Geno understands Maya Moore’s decision to step away from the WNBA
HARTFORD — Count Geno Auriemma among those not surprised by Maya Moore’s decision to put her basketball career on hold.
“I had an inkling from some conversations this summer that this was a distinct possibility,” the UConn coach said Wednesday following a 118-55 rout of ECU at the XL Center. “It’s probably a big surprise to a lot of people because she’s still in the prime of her career, really.
“She’s had so much success when you think about it. But people change as they get older.”
Moore, a five-time all-star and former MVP, announced Tuesday on The Player’s Tribune that she intends to sit out the 2019 WNBA season to spend more time with her family and focus on her faith.
“The success that I’ve been a part of in basketball truly blows my mind every time I think about it,” Moore, 29, wrote. “But the main way I measure success in life is something I don’t often get to emphasize explicitly through pro ball.
“I measure success by asking, “Am I living out my purpose?” I learned a long time ago that my purpose is to know Jesus and to make Him known.”
The 6-foot Moore has played eight seasons with the Minnesota Lynx, most recently averaging 18.0 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists. The Lynx placed the franchise tag on Moore last month, preventing her from becoming a free agent.
“She sees something out there that she feels like she has to devote more of her time, and I’m all for it,” Auriemma said. “If that’s what you’ve got to do, that’s what you’ve got to do.”
Moore was a four-time All-American at UConn and remains the program’s all-time leading scorer with 3,036 points. She won two national championships with the Huskies (2009 and 2010) and has four titles with the Lynx.
Auriemma suspects that there will be more basketball in Moore’s future.
“I don’t know that we’ve heard the last of her,” Auriemma said. “That would be my guess.”
Signs of progress: Auriemma was encouraged by what he saw from his bench, which got extended playing time in UConn’s most lopsided victory of the season.
“There was a good look about it,” Auriemma said. “Take in consideration who we were playing, but they looked like, ‘We’ve got a pretty good idea of what we’re trying to do here.’ And that was the whole point of tonight.”
Kyla Irwin had nine points, Molly Bent scored eight, and Olivia Nelson-Ododa managed six points, six rebounds and two blocks. Mikayla Coombs contributed five rebounds. The quartet played between 17 and 19 minutes.
“They came in today really good and had that confidence that they could do what they needed to do,” guard Katie Lou Samuelson said.
Auriemma explained that he simplified his players’ responsibilities this week in practice, giving them a chance to build up their confidence.
“Let’s say our playbook is 10 pages. Our playbook is down to like half a page,” Auriemma noted. “I think that’s helped them. We’ve tried to minimize how many things we can do. Their focus has been pretty narrow. They’re comfortable with the one or two things that we’ve given them that they can get good at.”