BRISTOL, Conn — Winner.
This word means everything in the world of sports. If you’re a “winner” you’re successful, timeless, and above all else, great at what you do. There are winners throughout the sports landscape, but you’d be hard-pressed to find an athlete that embodies this compliment more in recent memory than Moriah Jefferson, who expects to be one of the first names called in Thursday’s WNBA Draft presented by State Farm (7PM ET, ESPN2).
For the last four years Jefferson was known as the electrifying point guard on the UConn women’s basketball team, the motor to the most finely-tuned machine the women’s collegiate game has ever seen. She helped lead the Huskies to four straight national titles and along with her teammates Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck, became the first college basketball players, male or female, to accomplish this feat.
Before stepping foot on the campus at Storrs, Connecticut, Jefferson was the talk of female high school hoops in Texas. She was home-schooled for the duration of her career, but that didn’t stop her from joining the Texas Home Educators Sports Association, and dispelling all on-comers. She dominated local and national competition, and of course she won. Four straight high school championships to be exact. If you’re keeping count, that means for the last eight years Jefferson has been a champion. A winner.
But, even before her time presiding over the high school courts in Dallas, or dismantling defenses with videogame-like vision at UConn, Jefferson was a fan of the league she is set to join.
“I grew up watching Cappie Pondexter,” Jefferson said of the current Chicago Sky guard. “I love the way she plays. Also, I watched the UConn greats, Sue, Diana, and Maya now. Getting a chance to see those guys compete so hard everyday is what keeps me competing the way I do.”
Now, this longtime fan and proven winner has another ‘W’ to record in her basketball career, being selected in this year’s WNBA Draft.
Jefferson was one of the 12 invitees to the draft. As a result, she has spent the few days leading up the big night at WNBA Player Orientation in Bristol, Conn., where she will be talking with league officials, current WNBA players and more to learn about the intricacies of the WNBA and playing professionally.
But most importantly, Jefferson is focused on basking in this once-in-a-lifetime moment she now finds herself a part of.
“It’s a little surreal, I know I’m here at orientation but I still can’t believe on Thursday my name will be called and I’ll be in the draft,” she said. “This is a moment you grow up thinking about it. First, I was playing to get to college and now I’m going to the WNBA. I just can’t wait for that moment to get here. I’m ready.”
So, where will the 5’7″, magician with the rock end up? Many experts have her heading to the San Antonio Stars with the No. 2 overall pick. Jefferson brings elite ball-handling skills, a serious acumen for the game, and an unprecedented winning pedigree. She is one of only two players to win the Nancy Liberman Award for the nation’s top point guard twice (2015, 2016), and she also took home the Dawn Staley award for the best overall guard in the country this season. She averaged a career-high 12.6 points per game while also dishing out a career and team-high 5.5 assists per game.
No matter when her name is called or where she ends up playing, Jefferson will always have her University of Connecticut family. The entire squad will actually be at the draft to offer their support for Jefferson, Stewart and Tuck. The same exact thing that Jefferson found herself doing just one year ago.
“I was in the stands last year going nuts for Kaleena and Kiah,” she said. “So this year sitting at the table with my family and seeing my teammates there will be surreal.”
With the draft on the immediate horizon, Jefferson has eight championships and a whole lot of winning to look back on. But, there may be no bigger victory than hearing her name called on Thursday night.
Stay tuned to WNBA.com for Moriah’s full Draft Day experience.