by Maurice Bobb
Pay it forward. Three simple words that mean so much to the balance of life. Gatorade understands this principle, which is why they had former Gatorade Player of the Year, Maya Moore, come back to surprise the newest Gatorade Player of the Year, Brianna Turner, with the prestigious hardware not only for her athletic excellence (she averaged 20.8 points and 11.5 rebounds per game while leading her team to a 38-2 record and a state championship), but for her academic achievement (3.71 GPA) and exemplary character on and off the field.
Moore, who won a WNBA championship with the Minnesota Lynx last season, won the award back in 2007 when she beasted her way to 25.5 points, 12.1 rebounds, 4.3 steals and 3.8 assists per contest and a third consecutive 5A state chip. With this being the 29th anniversary of the Gatorade POY program (over 13,000 State POYs and 260 National POYs have been honored), SLAM caught up with the Olympic gold medalist to talk about winning, striving for excellence and the future of women’s basketball.
SLAM: What should winning an award like this mean to Brianna?
Maya Moore: I think the first aspect of winning this award is the surprise. The Gatorade crew comes to the school and you’re really caught off guard, but the more that it sinks in that you won the award, it’s just really special because you see your family there, you see your coach and your teammates there and you just feel proud because you have your whole community there. It just helps you remember how special your time in high school was as a basketball player.
SLAM: You won this award back in ’07. What’s it mean to be able to come back to present to someone else?
MM: It’s special. I get excited because I know that it’s someone else’s moment and I’m there to help make it special so it’s really cool to be able to make someone else’s moment special. It’s something they’ll never forget. I know I remember very vividly my Gatorade National Girls POY experience and I’m just hoping this one can be very special for Brianna.
SLAM: I’m sure you two will get a chance to talk one on one. Will the subject of her passing on UConn for Notre Dame come up?
MM: It might come up [laughs]. No, I’ll try to keep this day a happy one, so maybe not.
SLAM: Will you be giving her advice on how to succeed at the next level?
MM: Well, that might be a conflict of interest [laughs]. I’m just kidding, from what I can tell, just spending time with her, she has a lot of potential. She’s very tall and athletic. She’s got the tools to become a very great basketball player. She’s a willing passer, too, so she’s going to thrive at the next level because she can do so many things well. If she continues to develop her skills and is constantly trying to be the best player she can, which she has the potential to be because she’s such a tall wing player, it’s gonna be kinda scary to see where she takes her game.
SLAM: What does winning an award like this do for your confidence?
MM: I think it’s just like any other level of success, whether it’s winning a state championship or winning an individual award, the bar is really high for you and you wanna continue to be ready because you know eyes are on you and people are really gonna come at you really hard when they put you at the next level because you’ve had so much success. I know for me, winning motivated me to prepare even better because I knew the next time around, whatever challenge came it was gonna be harder because of the success and people wanting to compete well against you. Winning the award definitely motivated me to go in hungry and that’s not necessarily common because you can kind of get content, after you win sometimes but if you’re a competitor, you understand there’s gonna be harder tests coming down the road and I think Brianna will approach it the same way.
SLAM: You’ve won on every level. What drives you?
MM: I think anything that I do I wanna do it to the best of my abilities. I’ve been extremely blessed along the way to have so much help that there’s no way that I can take credit for where I am today. I’ve had my part in it, of course, but I like to prepare and work as hard as I can and be the best person I can. But I’ve had so many great coaches come along and awesome family that supported me from day one. I’ve played for some of the best teams ever put together all around the world, and there’s just so many doors that the Lord has opened for me to play on the kind of teams that I’ve played for and the support from the communities that I’ve been as well, so I’ve been very blessed. But I also love to compete. If there’s something for me to win, I definitely want to win it. No question that you have to have an extreme successful drive to be successful over time.
SLAM: What does it mean to have the support of Gatorade behind you?
MM: It’s huge. It gives you a lot of confidence. If a prestigious organization like Gatorade is honoring you, it definitely makes you look at yourself differently as a high school athlete and you feel a sense of accomplishment and professionalism to be a part of the Gatorade family. I know when I went out to Los Angeles as a senior, it was another level of realizing how big of a deal this award is with all the national high school winners from other sports. It’s something that you never forget. Take this experience with you and it helps you grow up and appreciate where you’ve been even more.
SLAM: And what about you having the support of Jordan Brand?
MM: It’s still a very special time. I’m in my third season as a pro and people are still excited about me being the first female basketball player on the line. They’re excited to see more of me and anything in the Jordan Brand, and the exciting part is there are still people out there discovering more about the brand and women’s basketball. It’s an exciting time to keep people informed about what’s coming down the line. I know something fun I like to do during the WNBA season is I wear special Js on different days. During special games, you’ll see me in a different Jordan, so I’m excited to see what I’m going to bring out.
SLAM: What about the WNBA? What is it going to take for the league to get to that next level of fandom?
MM: It’s not a matter of product, which is the great part. I know we have an awesome league, an awesome group of professional athletes that put on amazing basketball night in and night out. I think it’s about spreading the word, letting other organizations get a taste of the amazing game we play in the WNBA. And have different sponsors come in and follow the game and the value that we bring to our community and our fans. We’re making progress in that area. Just this past Monday I flew into Minnesota to be a part of announcing our new jersey sponsor and it’s unprecedented in the WNBA—having the Mayo Clinic on the front of our jerseys. So that’s just an example of how the league is growing and how people are buying in and seeing the value of our team. It’s an exciting time, we’re growing and we’re still relatively young, which is exciting to know we still have untapped potential.