Early to Rise
COLLINS HILL Suwanee, Ga.
When Maya Moore was three years old, her mother, Kathryn, put a basketball hoop on the back door of their apartment. She did it more to keep her own sanity than to shape her daughter's destiny. Maya had been constantly running around their home; Kathryn hoped the hoop would keep her attention for a few minutes. "I put it up as an outlet for all the energy she had," says Kathryn. "I never thought she would slam-dunk that little ball through that hoop for hours."
Fourteen years later Moore is still dunking, but now she's doing it in practices -- not yet in a game -- at Collins Hill High in Suwanee, Ga., where the 6-foot forward has blossomed into the most celebrated girls' high school basketball player in the country. Last year she became only the second junior to win the Naismith National High School Player of the Year award, and she led her school to its second straight state title. This season Moore, who has committed to Connecticut, is playing even better. In December she was unanimously named MVP of the Tournament of Champions in Chandler, Ariz., after leading the Eagles to a 75-61 win over second-ranked Poly (Long Beach, Calif.). A week later she scored a career-high 48 points during a win against St. Elizabeth (Wilmington, Del.) in the title game of the T-Mobile Invitational in Seattle.
"Every year she finds a way to take her game to the next level, physically and mentally," says coach Tracey Tipton. "This year she has really stepped up and become more vocal." Moore says her outspokenness comes from being the oldest of 10 cousins who played together while growing up. In those schoolyard games, she says, "I got a chance to learn how to be responsible and be a leader."
Dominant in the perimeter and the post, she is already the school's alltime leader in points and rebounds. This season Moore is averaging 27.6 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and five steals. But her most impressive statistic may be her school's 94-3 record during her first three seasons. This year the Eagles have started 16-0 and will be aiming for their fourth straight state final. Says Tipton of her star player, "She wants to be the best."
For these senior girls, high school is just the beginning
Angie Bjorklund, University (Spokane), Guard, 6-feet A heady court general who is averaging 25.3 points per game, Bjorklund committed to Tennessee after turning down offers from Duke, North Carolina and Connecticut.
Jantel Lavender, Central Catholic (Cleveland), Center, 6'4" Lavender, a bruiser on the blocks, averaged 17.3 rebounds last season and played on Team USA's gold-medal U18 squad in July. She is committed to Ohio State.
Italee Lucas, Centennial (Las Vegas), Guard, 5'8" Considered the nation's best ball handler, Lucas gave North Carolina an oral commitment when she was a sophomore.
Jasmine Thomas, Oakton (Vienna, Va.), Guard, 5'9" The three-time Virginia AAA Northern Region player of the year, headed to Duke, has a phenomenal 32-inch vertical leap
-- Kevin Armstrong