Feb. 7, 2013
By Jeff Piascik, UConn Athletic Communications
As the University of Connecticut Women’s basketball team heads into the month of February with 19 wins in its first 20 games, one of the biggest storylines has been the impressive play of the new class of freshmen. For 5-foot-7 guard Moriah Jefferson, the transition into Division I Athletics has been a unique one. Jefferson, who verbally committed to UConn in early 2011, spent her high school career playing basketball as a home-schooled athlete.
Jefferson, a Glen Heights, Texas resident, played for the Texas Home Educators Sports Association (THESA) and helped lead the Riders to five consecutive National Christian Homeschool Basketball Championship titles. She was one of the most dominant players in THESA history putting together a career 3,354 points, 825 rebounds and 728 steals.
Despite the numerous national powerhouse basketball schools like Texas A&M and Baylor that reside in her home state, Jefferson decided to make the 1700 mile journey to Storrs to play for the Huskies.
“I think when I came up here I instantly fell in love with it,” Jefferson said of her initial visit to UConn. “It’s not just one thing that happened or one factor that made me choose UConn. It just felt perfect when I got here.”
Initially, many people were surprised that Jefferson had opted to leave Texas for Connecticut, and critics declared that she was too small to play for UConn or that her home-schooled past would cause her to have trouble adjusting to the large Storrs campus. Jefferson made a point to avoid listening to naysayers in an effort to maintain the positive attitude that helped her to success in the past.
“I wasn’t really nervous too much,” she confidently stated. “I was more excited and ready to get out here and make an impact on our team. All my friends, outside of my basketball team, were not homeschooled so I’m used to it. It wasn’t a problem.”
Her confidence in her abilities is a characteristic that has served her well this season, as head coach Geno Auriemma has gone to Jefferson more and more as the season has progressed. So far this season, Jefferson is averaging 3.8 points, 1.7 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game. Lately, her minutes have been on a steady increase because of the poise and leadership she has shown on the court.
“I’m definitely growing,” Jefferson acknowledged. “Of course the more time I get on the court means the more experience I’m getting, which will make things come more naturally. I know I can do a lot better. But at the end of the day, I’m going to focus on the positives and not the negatives.”
Jefferson gives a lot of credit to her Rider teammates and coaches who spent countless hours in the gym training with her. In fact, regardless of what others may conclude about her past, she believes that being home-schooled was a benefit to her play.
“It was definitely an advantage.” Jefferson said. “I had a lot of time to work on my game outside of school. I would go to different high schools and train with the guys teams so I was able to get a lot of different experience that way, which really helped my development.”
For Jefferson, her first semester at UConn has been filled with triumphs, both on the court and off. She is upbeat about her classwork, as well as living life on a college campus with nearly 17,500 other students. You would never know that she never attended a public high school or that her hometown was halfway across the country – she projects a cheerful demeanor nearly everywhere she goes.
“I love it so far, everything is great,” said Jefferson. “I’ve been able to make friends off of the basketball court. I’ve met lots of people from classes and other sports teams. I really love being here.”
It’s been a nearly flawless social transition for Jefferson, which has made it easier for her to focus on basketball and finding her role within the team. She credits the team chemistry that has developed among the players as a major factor in UConn’s success thus far.
“I think the excitement that this team has for each other is great,” she said of the team cohesion. “If someone makes a basket or a nice pass we all celebrate with them and have a good time together.”
Jefferson was also quick to credit her coach for her achievements, citing his intense style of coaching as an important tool.
“Coach Auriemma stays on me, which is important” Jefferson stated. “ If I do something wrong he lets me know about it, and doesn’t let it go. I think it makes me try to strive for perfection, and motivates me to perform the best I can on the court for the team.”
Jefferson will have plenty of opportunities down the stretch to continue to show Husky fans why she was so highly touted entering college. Her story makes her accomplishments this season even more remarkable, and gives other home-schooled athletes inspiration and hope for their futures. For Jefferson, her path to UConn has been an uncommon one, but her journey has helped define her as a person and as an athlete. The future looks bright for this young freshman, and like she has proven in the past, the best is yet to come.