BY MIKE PEDEN
The Minnesota Lynx wasted no time taking advantage of their newfound attention.
Their first-round draft picks, Connecticut's Maya Moore and Xavier's Amber Harris, made their first appearance in front of media and several fans in the Target Center skyway concourse Tuesday afternoon.
While the Lynx won what was dubbed the "Maya Moore lottery" last November, the "Maya Moore media lottery" began almost as soon as the three-time Wade Trophy winner was selected.
"A lot of eyes on me and cameras and questions," Moore said. "At the University of Connecticut, we have a great opportunity to practice and get ready for draft day."
Moore herself has witnessed the UConn effect in recent WNBA drafts. Chardé Houston, who was Moore's teammate for a year in Storrs, Conn., was a third-round pick by the Lynx in 2008. She has a 2009 All-Star appearance on her resumé.
The following year, Minnesota drafted Renee Montgomery in the first round. Montgomery was traded to the Connecticut Sun after the 2009 season in an exchange that also swapped the Lynx's first overall pick with the Sun's second overall pick, allowing the Sun to draft UConn's Tina Charles, who earned Rookie of the Year honors last year. Both Charles and Montgomery made an appearance for the U.S. national team in last year's USA/WNBA All-Star Game.
All three have since grown to be fan favorites with their respective professional teams, and the character exhibited by Moore's elder Huskies was not lost with this year's first overall draft pick.
"I tried to recognize and honor the people who have helped me along the way, like my mom and coach (Geno) Auriemma. I wanted them at my table to make sure they knew how much they mean to me," Moore said.
Moore is also recognizing the new challenges she will face as a WNBA player, where strict rules with roster limits coupled with only 12 league teams equal a season where every team can compete for wins at any game.
"There are no automatic blowout games," she said.
The 16-minute press conference was part of a booked schedule for the Lynx's new pack members. When the conference concluded, Moore and Harris took part in photo shoots with the team's new jersey design, taped public service announcements and held additional interviews in a media market hungry for excitement following the struggles of the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Wild, Minnesota Timberwolves and the University of Minnesota men's and women's basketball teams.
After Monday's full slate of interviews following the WNBA draft, Moore and Harris spent most of their first plane ride together catching up on sleep.
"I was knocked out the whole time. I think I just left Amber," Moore said to a response of laughter.
Harris, who University of Minnesota fans may recall when her Xavier team thrashed Minnesota in a 2009 Thanksgiving tournament in the Bahamas, had never heard of the state slogan, "Land of 10,000 Lakes," until her arrival in a Lynx uniform. The Lynx played strategy starting from last year to be in position to draft her and considered themselves fortunate when the team expected to draft Harris, the Chicago Sky, drafted Courtney Vandersloot instead.
While Harris has played "Robin" to Moore's "Batman" in draft coverage, the only thing she plans to compete for is points to help her Minnesota Lynx team win games.
Harris is not sure where she will be slotted on the court with the team deep in power forwards but short on centers. However, she believes she can bring the skill set of both positions on the floor, which suited Minnesota's style of play last season.
"I can post up, drive to the basket, shoot threes. I can bring that inside-outside game," she said.
One benefit Moore and Harris have is joining a team of players who consistently contribute, including two-time Wade Trophy winner Seimone Augustus.
"How in the world did we get in a situation where we come in as high draft picks to a loaded team?" Moore said. "A lot of the awards that I've been a part of, (Seimone) was one of the trailblazers for multiple winners. I have a lot of respect for how she can score."
"I watched her play at (Louisiana State University). I'm really excited to play alongside her," Harris said.
Fans anticipate Moore will bring a culture of winning to a franchise that has never finished higher than 18-16 in the regular season, with Hall of Famer Rebecca Lobo going as far as penciling Moore in as WNBA Rookie of the Year if she stays healthy.
There will likely be no lectures from the woman who played throughout UConn's record breaking 90-game winning streak, the best in all of Division I basketball. Instead, Moore wants to lead with what she does best.
"Bring energy, compete, work hard, play with passion. That's what sustains winning," she said.
Click play below to listen to a one-on-one interview with Lynx draft pick Amber Harris
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