Draft Day Dreams with Maya Moore

WNBA.com's Scott Stanchak spent the day with top draft prospect Maya Moore ahead of her being selected number-one overall by the Minnesota Lynx.

The alarm clock went off almost seven hours after Maya Moore finally fell asleep on Monday. The newest member of the Minnesota Lynx had been up the night before looking over the next day’s itinerary and making Skype phone calls to friends. By the time she was ready to close her eyes, it was 1 a.m.

Moore’s alarm clock actually turned on twice. The first time was 7:30 a.m., but her six-foot frame wasn’t ready to get out of bed. At 7:45 the alarm began to blare once again. This time, Moore was wide awake, ready to get a start crossing items off that schedule she studied hours earlier.

Before the lights and cameras were ready to shine on Moore, the 21-year-old headed from her room to the third floor of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Hartford, Conn. for breakfast. There she dined on French toast, breakfast potatoes and bacon with the 14 other WNBA prospects attending the 2011 Draft.

Back upstairs, an ESPN crew began their day-long task of filming the former University of Connecticut guard ahead of showtime at 3 p.m. Moore dressed in a blue shirt and black dress pants, the same outfit she’d wear on several of ESPN’s top-rated programs in the coming hours. Moore was the only player who’d be fully dressed and made up at this time in the morning.

The charter bus to take the soon-to-be draftees to ESPN’s studios 19 miles away in Bristol, CT was ready to pull out of the Crowne’s parking lot at 9:32. Moore was the last one on the bus, taking seat number 19 in the fifth row, across from Stanford’s Jeanette Pohlen. The two could be heard chatting on the mostly quiet bus. The trip to Bristol was neither scenic, nor jaw dropping. Perhaps taking the long way – “I don’t remember going this way” was heard in the back of the bus several times – left many wondering if their new home cities will look like this.

Moore was among the first players to depart the bus. She, along with her fellow draft class members, were then led into one of ESPN’s main buildings and down a set of stairs to a lounge. Three rows of long tables faced eight large and three even larger flat screen televisions. Notebook computers were there to entertain, and many of the players checked out Facebook – later they were spotted friending one another – and WNBA.com. Moore was not one of them, however, as she was needed elsewhere.

By 10:15, Moore’s entourage grew to seven, with a four-person ESPN film crew, a member of WNBA public relations, an ESPN guide and this writer now in tow. Heading across campus to another building, Moore apologized into the camera for the dull weather – 60 degrees and cloudy. The guide then brought Moore to a taping of “First Take.” Entering the studio, Moore passed by two blown-up ESPN The Magazine covers featuring Phoenix Mercury star and former UConn standout Diana Taurasi. On set, Moore chatted with personality Jemele Hill before taping a segment with Dana Jacobson. The eight-minute piece ended with Jacobson quizzing Moore about Minnesota culture, further hinting there was little doubt as to whether she would go first overall.

Moore walked off the “First Take” set at 10:53 and headed back across campus to a third-floor conference room for the “WNBA’s Inspiring Women’s Luncheon.” There, she met back up with her fellow draftees, who had spent the last 30 minutes getting their hair and makeup done. With a full buffet of breakfast foods, Moore stood in line behind Liz Cambage and picked up a strawberry fruit smoothie, muffin and breakfast sandwich. She then took a seat at one corner of the long conference table positioned in the center of the room.

A short introduction video was played for the players and executives (ESPN, WNBA and NBA) in attendance. That was followed by weekend Sportscenter anchor Cindy Brunson introducing each of the prospects alphabetically. As Brunson recited each player’s accomplishments, they took a new seat in a director’s chair in front of large glass windows overlooking the campus. Moore sat with Ohio State’s Jantel Lavender to her left and Stanford’s Kayla Pedersen to her right. Each future WNBA player was then paired with an executive for a 10-question trivia game. The questions had to do with the WNBA or pop culture from its 1997 inaugural season. Texas A&M’s Danielle Adams won with eight correct answers, while Moore finished with six.

At 12:28, Moore returned to the players’ lounge. It was there she saw her mother, Kathryn, for the first time of the day. Moore gave her a hug and kiss on the cheek – the two would remain together through her selection three hours later. Moore then changed into her draft outfit: a black, silver and gold dress with black flats, an ideal choice of footwear given the mileage she would soon log on the media circuit. She touched up her own makeup as an ESPN hair dressers made sure that part of her was in place.

As Moore was being ushered to the set of “Sportscenter,” she walked across one of the campus’ outdoor basketball courts. The camera crew asked if Moore was interested in taking a few shots, but Moore shot them down politely, jokingly citing she didn’t want to get sweaty. By 12:48, Moore was sitting down with Chris McKendry for an eight-minute segment. In front of the cameras, Moore is a natural, well-spoken and gives you enough of an answer to make it worth your time.

Outside the ESPN cafeteria a short time later, Moore was introduced to University of California defensive end Cameron Jordan, who was on campus doing interviews ahead of the upcoming NFL draft. The two took a photo, which Moore later sent out on Twitter. She then returned to the players’ lounge for an hour of relaxation before Chief of Basketball Operations and Player Relations Renee Brown called her name as the top pick in this year’s WNBA Draft.

Moore is quick to respond when asked how she’s been able to handle the already hot spotlight.

“It’s something I’m used to,” she said. “I’m very relaxed with it.”

Moore backed that statement up on Monday, in front of both a national audience and small contingence of in-person followers. But before she prepares to hit the floor with the Lynx, she has one more item to cross off her checklist.

“I still have to finish a research paper on the WNBA,” said Moore, who graduates from UConn on May 8.

That paper just became a whole lot easier to write.

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