WHEN MAYA MOOREwas three years old, her mother, Kathryn, put a basketball hoop on the backdoor of their apartment. She did it more to keep her own sanity than to shapeher daughter's destiny. Maya had been constantly running around their home;Kathryn hoped the hoop would keep her attention for a few minutes. "I putit up as an outlet for all the energy she had," says Kathryn. "I neverthought she would slam-dunk that little ball through that hoop forhours."
Fourteen yearslater Moore is still dunking, but now she's doing it in practices--not yet in agame--at Collins Hill High in Suwanee, Ga., where the 6-foot forward hasblossomed into the most celebrated girls' high school basketball player in thecountry. Last year she became only the second junior to win the NaismithNational High School Player of the Year award, and she led her school to itssecond straight state title. This season Moore, who has committed toConnecticut, is playing even better. In December she was unanimously named MVPof the Tournament of Champions in Chandler, Ariz., after leading the Eagles toa 75--61 win over second-ranked Poly (Long Beach, Calif.). A week later shescored 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 yearshe finds a way to take her game to the next level, physically andmentally," says coach Tracey Tipton. "This year she has really steppedup and become more vocal." Moore says her outspokenness comes from beingthe oldest of 10 cousins who played together while growing up. In thoseschoolyard games, she says, "I got a chance to learn how to be responsibleand be a leader."
Dominant in theperimeter and the post, she is already the school's alltime leader in pointsand rebounds. This season Moore is averaging 27.6 points, 12 rebounds, fourassists and five steals. But her most impressive statistic may be her school's94--3 record during her first three seasons. This year the Eagles have started16--0 and will be aiming for their fourth straight state final. Says Tipton ofher star player, "She wants to be the best."