NCAA women: UConn's Moore, Charles lead AP All-America team
AP Basketball Writer
This is now an annual rite of spring for Maya Moore, who is fast joining some of the greatest players in women's college basketball.
The Connecticut junior was honored as an All-American by The Associated Press on Tuesday, the third straight year she has made the team.
She was joined on the squad by teammate Tina Charles, Nebraska's Kelsey Griffin, Virginia's Monica Wright and Ohio State's Jantel Lavender.
Moore is the fourth three-time AP All-American. The others are Tennessee's Chamique Holdsclaw, Duke's Alana Beard and Oklahoma's Courtney Paris.
"To be in that same category is surreal," said Moore, who next season can match Paris as the only four time All-American. "I definitely looked up to Chamique Holdsclaw and Alana Beard. I remember thinking how great those women were growing up as a little kid watching the Final Fours."
This marks the second straight season the unbeaten Huskies had two first-team All-Americans.
"I think it's even cooler because you get to share it with your teammates," Moore said. "It's always nice to be recognized for the hard work that we do."
Moore and Charles have helped UConn to an NCAA-record 75 straight wins, leading Connecticut to its sixth undefeated regular season.
Both received 200 points and were unanimous choices among the 40-member national media panel that votes in the weekly Top 25. Voting was done before the NCAA tournament.
A second team All-American last season, Charles made huge strides this season. The 6-foot-4 center came into her own last year in the NCAA tournament, earning outstanding player honors at the Final Four. This year, she won the Big East player of the year trophy.
"I think that's just the cherry on top to be recognized as one of the best," Charles said. "It just shows that hard work definitely pays off and just everything that coach was trying to teach me definitely paid off."
Moore and Charles are the fourth set of UConn first-team All-Americans. The others are Moore and Renee Montgomery last season, Shea Ralph and Svetlana Abrosimova in 2000 and Kara Wolters and Jennifer Rizzotti in 1996. Tennessee is the only other team to put a pair on the first team.
Griffin helped Nebraska win its first 30 games before a loss in the Big 12 conference tournament semifinals. The Alaskan then got the Cornhuskers to their first NCAA regional semifinals before losing to Kentucky.
"Kelsey is as versatile as anyone in the country," Nebraska coach Connie Yori said. "She's got so much to her game in terms of her versatility on both ends of the court. She doesn't have a true weakness in her game."
Griffin missed last season with an ankle injury and Nebraska struggled to a 15-16 record. She became the first Cornhuskers player to make the first team.
Like Charles, Lavender was a second-team All-American last season. The Ohio State center powered the Buckeyes to their fourth-straight Big Ten title.
"I have always loved Robert Collier's quote, 'Your chances of success in any undertaking can always be measured by your belief in yourself,'" Lavender said, referencing the author of self-help works. "With all the physical challenges of this season, I had to stay mentally focused more than ever and I am very grateful for this honor."
Wright became the first Virginia player to make the first team. Assistant coach Wendy Palmer earned second-team honors her junior and senior year. Dawn Staley most likely would have been an All-American, but played before the first All-America team in 1995.
"This is a tremendous honor and I can honestly breathe a sigh of satisfaction knowing that four years of hard work has paid off," Wright said. "To be mentioned in the same breath as some of the all-time great players at Virginia is wonderful."
Wright finished her career with a school-record 2,540 points, averaging 23.7 points her senior year. She joined Staley as the only players in school history to amass 2,000 points, 700 rebounds, 350 steals and 300 assists.
"She has placed the University of Virginia back in a prominent national position while representing us with class both on and off the court," Virginia coach Debbie Ryan said.
The second team consisted of Oklahoma State senior Andrea Riley, Stanford senior Jayne Appel and sophomore Nnemka Ogwumike, Middle Tennessee State senior Alysha Clark and Baylor freshman Brittney Griner.
The third team was: Oklahoma junior Danielle Robinson, Duke junior Jasmine Thomas, Kentucky junior Victoria Dunlap, Delaware freshman Elena Delle Donne and Xavier junior Amber Harris.
The preseason All-America team was Moore, Charles, Appel, Lavender and Wright.