Maya Moore spent her prep basketball career at Collins Hill High School near Suwanee, Georgia. She was a four-time high school All-American and a two-time national player of the year. During her prep career, Moore led Collins Hill to three state championships and a runner-up finish. The 4.0-GPA student moved on to the University of Connecticut, where she helped the Huskies to consecutive national crowns in 2009 and 2010. In 2011, she was the No. 1 overall pick by the Minnesota Lynx of the WNBA. In her WNBA career, she has helped the Lynx to three championships while being the league’s rookie of the year, most valuable player and the two-time MVP of the All-Star game. HST caught up with Moore before the Lynx played the host Indiana Fever in early August to reflect on her high school experience.
Question: When you reflect on your high school days, what is the first thing that comes to mind?
Moore: I just remember the great foundation that was set for me. I had so many opportunities to grow and learn. I had training in the classroom to prepare me for college. Basketball-wise, I had opportunities with my teams. For me, high school was fun. It was a fun kind of preparation for that next step.
Question: When you played on that hoop you had in the yard, did you envision stardom?
Moore: I never envisioned stardom as a kid because I was just enjoying being a kid. When doors opened, I walked through them and continued to work hard. It was a matter of doing what I enjoyed and trying to have fun. Being out at the hoop allowed my imagination to develop. Things were sparked there. I was able to develop the instincts that I use here (pointing to the court at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis). At some point, the dreams develop and they help pave the way for later.
Question: Was there a magic moment when you realized, “Hey, I can play this game of basketball and maybe do so at a high level?”
Moore: I believe it was at age 12 when I discovered I could maybe play at a high level. I played up an age-level. I always played with that mindset that I am playing hard competition. There wasn’t any point in my amateur career where I was coasting. I was always striving for that next goal, always wanting to improve.
Question: You evolved into one of the most heralded high school players of all time. What was it like to be in the national high school spotlight and how did you cope with the sky-high expectations?
Moore: First, I had a great foundation and support system at home; I was also careful of the company I kept. I was really nice to people, but not super close to anybody. It helped me stay focused to have a good circle and to just try to stay focused on school.
Question: You were a superstar in the classroom as well. Was it a challenge to have that balance between academics, athletics and just being a high school kid?
Moore: It was hard, really hard, but it prepared me for life. My mom will tell me I was definitely stressed out a lot in high school. I might not have been the most fun to live with from age 14 to about 18; I was handling AP classes and trying to win championships at what I was doing, and I was trying to learn how to cope, emotionally, and with time management. I had a full plate knowing that I had to say no to some things. I had to sacrifice some things because I had to go to practice or finish that school project. It is worth it, though, if it is part of what you want to accomplish.
Question: You’ve been a winner at every level. Some might suggest winning comes easy to you. In reality, does it? What goes into being a successful teammate on a successful team?
Moore: There is so much that goes into winning and experiencing success. Over time, you learn and understand that. It takes the right people being together, having that trust in the journey and the goals. You have to have an amazing work ethic. You have to have a passion for what you do and a no-quit attitude. It is the ones that persist that end up being in those situations where they have a chance to win. It doesn’t come easy at all. It comes with a lot of preparation.
Question: What is your message to young fans as they embark on their high school athletic and academic journeys?
Moore: I think in every situation you are in, just try to be someone that is gracious, passionate and energetic. There will be days when you aren’t going to feel it, but you have to find a way to contribute, whether it is in the classroom or on a team. You want to be that kind of teammate that celebrates other people’s successes. You want to lead by example and just take things day by day. You will make mistakes along the way, but that is OK. Working through those things will give you a strong foundation to succeed in high school and then the next levels.
Question: Giving back to the game, the schools and the communities will be a major part of your legacy. Have you always had a giving spirit?
Moore: Yes and no. I’ve been greatly influenced by the generous people in my life; those people are through basketball and my church family. My mom gave her time and energy to help me develop my goals; I feel like that is contagious. When you receive so much love and you take the time to reflect on what you’ve been given, it helps you to want to share what you’ve been given as well. My mindset is that I have been given opportunities and blessings. It is a fulfilling way to go through success.
Tim Leighton is communications coordinator of the Minnesota State High School League and a member of the High School Today Publications Committee.