Jefferson eager to play in front of friends and family
Few introductions will be needed when UConn freshman guard Moriah Jefferson steps onto the court tomorrow against Texas A&M.
Four of the Aggies’ seven freshmen were Jefferson’s teammates with the DFW Elite AAU juggernaut while she considers A&M freshman Peyton Little to be her closest friend.It could make for an emotional scene but Jefferson made it clear that when it is time to get serious, she won’t have any issues going to work.
“It will be fun playing against them but at the same time, when we are playing against them we are not friends, we are enemies,” said Jefferson, the first Texas native to play for head coach Geno Auriemma at UConn. “On the court it is business, off the court we are friends.”
With junior All-American guard Bria Hartley out for the second straight game with a sprained left ankle, UConn coach Geno Auriemma could opt to start Jefferson or go with senior Caroline Doty for the second straight game.
Auriemma has seen these return home games be both a blessing and a curse especially for a youngster like Jefferson with one career game under her belt.
“I hope she enjoys it,” Auriemma said. “I have not talked to her about it. I am sure she is excited about it. I am sure she will have a lot of family and friends at the game, sometimes that works both ways, you play great or you can get all anxious but I am happy for her. It is a good opportunity for her.”
With Hartley sidelined and Doty’s perpetual knee injuries limiting her time in practice, Jefferson has found herself running the UConn offense perhaps a little earlier than anybody anticipated. Her teammates have been impressed with the way Jefferson has transitioned to the speed and intensity of the college game.
“She is the smallest player we have on this team but she is one of the hardest working and she plays bigger than she is,” UConn sophomore forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis said. “She gets in there, she is not afraid to get in there with the trees. She might get banged up a little but she is never going to stop going in there. It is hard to come in here and try to be a point guard. Coach Auriemma, he loves his point guards and he expects a lot out of them. I think she has come in as a freshman with pretty high expectations of herself and I think she is handling it pretty well.
"You can tell by Moriah's personality and just the way she talks out there that she is a natural leader, she is a natural point guard. She wants to take control of things, she wants to know where everybody is supposed to be, she wants to make sure everybody is in the right place. It is kind of nice to have somebody out there who is already born with that leadership mentality.".
At 5-foot-7 Jefferson is the shortest UConn player and the skinniest one as well. Jefferson has heard the naysayers question whether she is big enough to play at the highest level of basketball. She also knows that there are those fully expecting her to get home sick and return to Texas for good.
“Everybody asked me why would I come so far when I have Baylor, A&M and all these good schools in Texas but for me it is just something different,” Jefferson said. “This is where I wanted to go. I came here and I fell in love with it. There were people saying 'oh, you aren't going to make it, you'll be back in a couple of days and even in a couple of months.' All right, we will see. I am still here and I am not going anywhere.
“I get those doubts all the time. (Look at) me, I am small so that is one and then you are going so far away, you are home schooled so you are not going to be used to being away from your family but I don't mind them at all.”