20th Season Memories: The Lynx Draft Maya Moore

There was a time when Maya Moore was not a four-time WNBA Champion, a five-time All Star, a Jordan Brand signee, and a WNBA Most Valuable Player. On April 11, 2011, she was a young college basketball star anxiously waiting to hear her name called in the WNBA draft.

She didn’t have to wait long.

The Lynx saw the superstar potential in Moore and took her with the first overall pick. The team would win its first WNBA Championship that season, and the rest is history. But how did they get there?

Flash back to 2010. Change was in the air for the Lynx. After several seasons of disappointment, the franchise made a few moves that continue to define the team to this day. Cheryl Reeves was hired to take over as head coach, and the team brought Lindsay Whalen home to Minnesota in a trade and acquired Rebekkah Brunson in the Sacramento Monarchs dispersal draft. Seimone Augustus was already on the team after being drafted No. 1 overall in 2005.

The pieces were in place, but things didn’t work out as expected. With Augustus sidelined due to injury, the Lynx got off to a rough start to the season, going 2-7 in their first nine. After Augustus returned, the Lynx went an improved 11-14, but their losing record clearly wasn’t enough to make the playoffs. Things were moving in the right direction, but the team wasn’t there yet.

Meanwhile, Moore was taking names and winning championships with the University of Connecticut Huskies. She lost only four non-tournament games with UConn, including two undefeated seasons culminating in national championships in 2009 and 2010. In 2011, Moore led the Huskies to a 31-2 record in her senior season before UConn was defeated by Skylar Diggins-Smith’s Fighting Irish in the Final Four.

The Lynx knew a that adding a player like Moore to their already-talented roster would immediately push them into championship contention. In Moore, the Lynx gained an incredible all-around player with an encyclopedic knowledge of the game.

Her attitude also perfectly fit the culture the Lynx were trying to build.

“Maya is a very, very special, unique person and athlete,” said Chris Wright, who was the team president when Maya was drafted. “Maya’s the total package. I’ve always wondered why certain athletes have got to be the way that they are, and Maya is such an incredible human being first. Such an incredible person, and is so grounded and so rooted in who and what she is and the way she acts, that just is so visible in the way that she plays.”

With her talent and work ethic, there wasn’t much of a learning curve for Moore; in her first year in the WNBA she averaged 13.2 points per game on impressive 43.9-percent shooting. She also added 4.6 rebounds and 1.4 steals. The Lynx won the 2011 championship, and Moore was named WNBA Rookie of the Year. She’s only refined her game in the years since.

Eight seasons out from that 2011 draft day, the Lynx have zero regrets about using their No. 1 selection to bring Moore to the team. Her impressive resume speaks for itself, but hearing her teammates and coaches talk about her, it’s clear she is valued beyond her basketball skills. Moore is a winner, and as the Lynx fight for another title in their 20th season, she’ll be leading the way.