Getting to know UConn's Moriah Jefferson

February 4, 2014 - 6:47pm
University of Connecticut's sophomore point guard Moriah Jefferson has come into her own this season after a summer spent home in Texas, grinding away in the gym. (Photo by Steven Slade/UConn Athletics)

University of Connecticut's sophomore point guard Moriah Jefferson has come into her own this season after a summer spent home in Texas, grinding away in the gym. (Photo by Steven Slade/UConn Athletics)

Editor's Note: University of Connecticut sophomore Moriah Jefferson took time out to sit down with Full Court's Jim Clark following the Huskies' 94-64 rout of Rutgers. Jefferson posted 13 points in that game, on six-of-eight from the floor, while doling out eight assists to her teammates. Here's what the 5-7 guard from Glenn Heights, Tex., had to share about herself and the development of her game.


Full Court: Obviously, we have seen a huge change in your play from last year. When did that start to happen for you, that you kind of made that click over into getting to be the player you are now becoming?

Moriah Jefferson: I think it was toward the end of last season. But then at the beginning of this season I didn’t think I was playing to the best my ability at all.

Full Court: And what was going on?

Moriah Jefferson: Just overthinking everything, and I wasn’t quite sure just exactly where I fit in and it was just thinking too much. But then after the season ended and the summer came I just locked myself in the gym and I got my confidence and it carried over into the pre-season.

Full Court: Did you work with anybody in particular, or was that just you making your head be different.

Moriah Jefferson: It was both. I would go a lot by myself, and I would go a lot with my "play brother," Jeremy Atkins. Me and him, we’d just go to the gym, six in the morning, watch a movie, then come back another time in the day, maybe 11-2, and then do it again.

Full Court: Was he a friend from high school?

Moriah Jefferson: Yeah. I’ve known him …. I’ve known him for a long time.

Full Court: So you were back in Texas?

Moriah Jefferson: Yes. I was back in Texas for the summer the whole time.

Full Court: And you said you started to feel at the end of last year, in the tournament, people started to notice that you were on the team?

Moriah Jefferson: Yeah.

Full Court: Before that it was more like, “Oh, there’s some sub in here and she looks really quick.”

Moriah Jefferson:  Uh-huh.

Full Court: Did you feel things begin to click in the tournament season?

Moriah Jefferson: Definitely, I think I turned up my defense; that’s what happened. And for me, it starts on the defensive end. When I get out in the lane and get after passes, everything else comes with that.

Full Court: One of the writers here wrote, pretty recently, about you that, "She doesn’t have to be great every game." Do you agree with that?

Moriah Jefferson:  Uh, I mean I don’t think…. I don’t know. It’s a good saying because it’s going to happen. I don’t think anybody can come out and play amazing every single game, but I think that’s what you have to strive for. And if not, you’re just looking to be average, and that’s not how I want to be.

Full Court: When you arrived here, did you have that mental approach? What Geno calls "the pursuit of excellence" all the time?

Moriah Jefferson: Definitely.

Full Court: That was you already?

Moriah Jefferson: Even just hearing about the program, that he just switches things. He’ll put eight guys on the court and expect you to be perfect even then. So coming in, I think I already had the idea that’s what he wanted, and you just have to be able to do it.

Full Court: You’ve had a lot of national press now. You’ve played big in big games. Does that create more pressure to live up to those games, or is that incentive to do it again?

Moriah Jefferson: That’s just me coming out playing, honestly. I think if you think about it, “The big lights are on, you have to play great.” I think that's when people get shell-shocked. And I think for me, I just come out and say, “Hey, I’ve got to contribute for my team,” and that’s what I did.

Full Court: The other thing we hear all the time on TV is: “She’s the shortest person on the floor.” Do you get tired of that?

Moriah Jefferson: I mean, I’ve heard it a lot, since I’ve been here.

Full Court: Did you notice it wasn’t true tonight? The ref was much shorter than you.

Moriah Jefferson: That’s the thing though, a lot of times they don’t even realize it, just because I’m so small, but there’s a lot of players that are the same as my height or even smaller. So, they tell you that I’m the smallest on the court, but it isn’t always like that.

Full Court: Tell me a little about – I know a little about home schooling, but I know nothing about the league you played in during your high school time. How big was the league? How far apart were the teams, and what was the level of play? I mean were you seeing real competition, or were you just that whole step above everybody else?

Moriah Jefferson: My team was different. We didn’t really play in a home-school league. We played local high schools. We played all the top high schools and we played in all the top high school tournaments around in my area. So in that sense, yeah, we saw a lot of competition. But then there’s a huge tournament with over six or seven hundred home-school teams, played in Missouri, it’s the National Tournament. It’s a week long, and there’s a lot of good players that come out of there, like Taber Spani at Tennessee, and some people from my team they went to D-II, and to TCU. So a lot of people who come out of there play well [in college]. So it’s not low competition, it’s just not exactly the same – it different when you’re home schooled.

Full Court: Who’s your roommate? Whom do you live with?

Moriah Jefferson: There’s three. I live with Kaleena [Mosqueda-Lewis], Kiah [Stokes] and Morgan [Tuck].

Full Court: Who would you say your closest friend is on the team?

Moriah Jefferson: Ah. Mmm… I have to go with Bria….

Full Court: If you don’t want to say…?

Moriah Jefferson: No, either Bria [Hartley] or Brianna Banks -- we’re both really close.

Full Court: When did you start with the knee pads? Or, have you been wearing them all year?

Moriah Jefferson: Yes, I have. It’s just some games they’re longer than others. [Photos show her with long white ones, and also with thicker, shorter blue ones.]

Full Court: What is the thing you are working on the most now, and what else do you see you most need to work on as time goes forward?

Moriah Jefferson: I’d say knocking down open [outside] shots. A lot of teams are leaving me open. So in the Baylor  game they did that in the beginning, and I came out and hit the first two shots. So then they couldn’t do it anymore. So I think just knocking those shots down consistently in every game.

Full Court: What else do you think you need to do?

Moriah Jefferson: Working on pull-up jumpers, too. Honestly, sometimes when I get in, I go too far towards the hole instead of stopping. And then I am short so sometimes I have to realize that shot is going to be blocked, so I think a consistent pull-up jumper will help me out.

Full Court: In high school you hit lots and lots of threes. Do you know what your percentage was?

Moriah Jefferson: I don’t know. .. .

Full Court: It was better than .290, though?

Moriah Jefferson: The difference was, for me in high school – I took all the shots basically [laughs].

Full Court: Because you were who you were. I get it.

Moriah Jefferson: For some of my teammates, they weren’t exactly on the same level, so for me, everything ran through me, and Coach said if I got the ball, shoot it. So when I got here, I didn’t really know if I have that range yet. We have Kaleena - great three-point shooter; Bria -- great three-point shooter;  Stewie -- great three-point shooter. So you can’t just come out and jack it up and run back on defense, you know.

Full Court: Sure, but is that something where you need that rhythm, where you maybe have to shoot more in games in order to start hitting more in games?

Moriah Jefferson:  I think so. I think I have to just line them up and just take my shots. So I’ve been just trying to do a little more of that in other games. I didn’t too it as much tonight, but I think in a couple more I’ll do that.

Full Court: Thanks so much.

Moriah Jefferson: Thank you.