HARTFORD, Conn. --- When she gets a running start, Maya Moore can take off from a step inside the foul line and dunk.
This is not a fingertips-pushing-the-ball-over-the-rim dunk. This is a genuine, tomahawk, rim-shaking slam.
"I don't think we've ever had a freshman make this kind of an impact in the 23 years that I've been here," Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said. "I don't think anyone could have predicted what Maya's done, and to do it on the level that she's done it ... I think it is nothing short of remarkable."
Moore, a 6-foot forward, could become UConn's first freshman All-American. On a team that returned everyone from a 32-4 season a year ago, Moore leads the Huskies in scoring (18.4 points), is second in rebounding (7.3) and ranks third in assists (96). She has scored in double figures in all 30 of UConn's games and has hit 56 3-point baskets.
She hasn't dunked in a game, yet. But Moore, who impresses teammates with her work ethic, poise and leadership, is perhaps the biggest reason the Huskies (29-1, 15-1 Big East) are favored to win a sixth national title.
"You can be dead tired at practice, and she's the one saying, 'come on, come on,' " sophomore center Tina Charles said.
Auriemma had hoped to ease Moore into a starring role at UConn, bringing her off the bench for her freshman season. But that changed in December, when starting forward Kalana Greene suffered a season-ending knee injury. A month later, the same thing happened to guard Mel Thomas.
"It's a unique position that a freshman is in," Moore said. "I'm just glad that my offense has been working and my shots are falling."
On Tuesday, Moore became the first freshman in conference history to be honored as Big East Player of the Week. On Friday, she is expected to be the Big East Freshman of the Year. She also is a leading candidate for conference Player of the Year.
"There's been so many great players to come through here," said Kara Wolters, the Huskies' single-season scoring record holder. "... She has room for improvement, which is really scary."