STORRS, CONN. (AP) - With her hair tied high in a bun, the same No. 23 on her jersey and a sweet jump shot, it’s easy to see how Connecticut fans might confuse freshman Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis with Maya Moore.
But coach Geno Auriemma hopes no one expects last year’s national high school player of the year to replace Moore, who led the Huskies to two national championships, four Final Fours and was twice named the AP’s national player of the year.
“It’s just not going to happen,” Auriemma said Wednesday during the Huskies’ annual media day news conference. “Now, if it does, I’ll be the first one to say, ‘Damn, that was unbelievable’.”
Mosqueda-Lewis, who doesn’t turn 18 until November, wore 23 in high school and had to get Moore’s permission to wear the number at UConn. She starts her career at UConn with high expectations for herself, but said this season her goals are just to bring some rebounding, shooting and energy to an already talented team.
“I kind of have to look at it a different way,” she said. “Maya was a great person, a great player and one of the best to come out of Connecticut. All that I can hope to do is to play my best. And if I happen to win some national championships along the way, then I’m blessed.”
“She shoots it as well, if not better than Maya,” he said. “But to expect her to be all those other things, I think that’s asking too much.”
Mosqueda-Lewis heads a highly touted freshman class at UConn that also includes guard Brianna Banks and center Kiah Stokes.
They join a host of veterans from last year’s Final Four team, including returning starters Bria Hartley, Stephanie Dolson, Tiffany Hayes, and Caroline Doty, who sat out last year with a knee injury.
“It’s going to be frustrating at times, for coaches, for players, for everybody,” he said. “I think there is going to be a lot of frustrations at times, because the expectation level here is so high that we have to be careful that the kids don’t feel like, well I’m not living up to the expectation levels post-Maya.”
But the players don’t want to hear that. Doty said she looks at her new teammates as the top recruits in the nation, and said she doesn’t expect the Huskies to miss a beat.
“They wouldn’t bring in just anybody,” she said. “Our expectations are to go to the Final Four and win the national championship.”
But she said it’s also important for Mosqueda-Lewis to not let those expectations overwhelm her.
“If she just worries about her being her and doesn’t try to be somebody else or fill someone else’s shoes, she will be a great player here,” she said. “She has to remember, the No. 23 is just a number.”