STORRS, Conn. (AP) - Mild-mannered point guard Moriah Jefferson turns into someone else on the court when she needs to turn it on for UConn in its quest for a fourth straight national title.
Though fans and her opponents might be unaware of it, Jefferson’s mom says occasionally the woman tearing up the court is a feisty, take-no-prisoners alter ego named “Morqueda.”
Robin Jefferson says her daughter has never liked to be the center of attention, so when she was a young player, she invented Morqueda, who takes over during the big games, when her team needs Jefferson to be a little more selfish.
“I used to tell her on her home-school team, we need you to get 25 tonight,” she said. “She’d say, ‘I don’t know, I’ll ask (Morqueda).’”
You’ll see Jefferson get a look in her eye, get angry and put the team on her back, Robin Jefferson said. It’s possible Morqueda could make an appearance Monday when the top-ranked Huskies (22-0) take on No. 2 South Carolina (21-0).
“There’s a lot more aggressiveness in those kind of games, and that’s where the whole Morqueda-thing came from,” Moriah Jefferson said. “But, honestly, I haven’t thought about her in a long time.”
UConn has won a lot with just Moriah Jefferson at the point.
The Huskies are 135-5 over her four years, with three straight national titles. She is averaging more than 13 points and 5 assists as a senior, while leading the team with 60 steals.
She has joined former national players of the year Jennifer Rizzotti and Maya Moore as the only Huskies to ever record more than 500 assists and 300 steals in their career, and is the odds-on favorite to win her second straight Nancy Lieberman award as the nation’s top point guard this spring.
But off the court, Moriah is happy to be just Moriah, living in the large shadow of her more famous teammate, two-time national player of the year Breanna Stewart.
“I don’t do it for the media attention,” Jefferson said. “I know I’m a part of it. (Morgan) Tuck knows she’s a part of it. Stewie just happens to be one of those great players and you have to talk about her. I don’t want take anything away from that.”
But it does bother Stewart, who doesn’t feel Jefferson gets enough of the credit for the Huskies amazing run, which includes their current 59-game winning streak.
“I want to share it with her and Tuck,” Stewart said. “She deserves just as much credit if not more for us doing this.”
Coach Geno Auriemma said Stewart would not have become the player she is if it wasn’t for Jefferson finding her all in spots where she can do something with the ball. And Jefferson, he said, wouldn’t be the player she is without having someone like Stewart as a target.
“Our chemistry, there are just no words to describe it,” Stewart said. “We always know what the other is thinking.”
Auriemma said while Jefferson isn’t getting as much national attention as Stewart, she is getting from those who matter - coaches, other players and professional scouts.
She is likely to be the second or third pick behind Stewart in this spring’s WNBA draft.
“Who gets the credit?” Auriemma said. “I think that’s irrelevant. If you are comfortable in your skin and you know the value that you bring to your team and you know that without you we can’t win, then I think that makes you feel like there’s nobody better in the country that is better than me.”
Unless, of course, it’s Morqueda.
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