Loree Moore has solid season for New York

The New York Liberty went from reaching the conference finals a year ago to missing the playoffs this season. Loree Moore, a former Lady Vol point guard, managed a solid season despite the team's struggles and will take some time off to rest and then look for an opportunity to again play overseas.

Loree Moore's season with the New York Liberty ended last Sunday with a win over playoff-bound Washington. Moore was nursing the usual "bumps and bruises throughout the season," and will go into the off-season looking for some down time in her home state of California.

"My mom is still there so whenever I get a chance if I am not going overseas I try to go back and visit my mom," Moore said.

Moore played last winter in Russia and plans to head overseas again at the end of 2009.

"It keeps you in shape," Moore said. "You're playing a different style of basketball. Being able to go to another country, see their culture, just be a part of something different. It gives you an opportunity to go play against some of the best players in the world from the other side. It's more run and gun, shoot the three ball. Here it's a lot more organized and team ball.

"You see a different side of things, and it's a lot of fun. You still get to be around other Americans. Most of the foreign players speak English so you're not completely out of the loop, and it gives you a chance to learn their culture, learn their language and just be a part of something different."

Moore would have preferred to still be playing right now, but New York struggled all summer – the head coach was replaced midway through the season – and the Liberty were eliminated from the playoffs, but in the topsy-turvy Eastern Conference it took the final two weeks of the season to be settled.

Coach Pat Coyle compiled a record of 7-10. Her replacement, Anne Donovan, went 6-11. Moore focused on running the team but acknowledged that it's tough when a team loses its coach.

"It is a little different, but we bounced back pretty fast from it, and we adjusted," Moore said. "We know that we need to turn things around."

In the final game of the season – an 86-65 win over Washington – the Liberty went deep into its bench. Post players Kia Vaughn and Erlana Larkins had nine points each, and sharpshooter Sidney Spencer also tallied nine points – 2-4 from behind the arc – and three rebounds.

Spencer and Moore overlapped at Tennessee for two years in 2004 and 2005, and Spencer, who was traded to New York before this season, said Moore eased her transition to a new team.

"Bringing in another shooter will help us in what we're trying to do," Moore said. "Sid is just trying to get used to things over here, and I think she's doing a great job."

Moore also helped former Lady Vol guard Alexis Hornbuckle when she arrived on campus in Knoxville. Moore was a senior guard and Hornbuckle was a freshman who thought she already had all the answers and didn't have to listen to the head coach all the time. Moore immediately recognized herself.

"I did that, too," Moore said. "I was like, ‘You know what? I've just got to do what she says is best.' Right when I gave myself to her that's when I tore my ACL, so it was a little rough for me my junior year when I finally decided to do that."

Moore ruptured her ACL in a game at Duke in January of 2004 and was lost for the season. The team, led by converted point guard Tasha Butts, somehow made it to the Final Four in 2004 in New Orleans, where they upset LSU but fell to heavily favored Connecticut.

Moore made it back to the Final Four in 2005 – Hornbuckle was a freshman – but the team had been gutted by knee surgeries to highly touted freshmen Alex Fuller and Candace Parker, who both never played a game that season; freshman Sa'de Wiley Gatewood, who was lost shortly after midseason and transferred a year later; and Spencer, who was then a sophomore and went down with two weeks left in the regular season.

Hornbuckle, Parker, Fuller and Spencer went on to win a national title in 2007 – Spencer was drafted by the WNBA after that season – and then repeated in 2008.

"Lex is a hardhead just like me," Moore said. "A lot of people call us sisters so I understand her. They ended up doing what they needed to do."

Moore returned to campus in 2006 to practice with the team – "I remember when I did come back they were running circles around me I was so out of shape," Moore said – but hasn't been able to make it back since because she usually went home to visit her mother in southern California and then headed overseas.

Moore plans to make a trip to Knoxville in late November when UCLA – Nikki Caldwell is the head coach and Butts is an assistant – will play Tennessee.

"Tasha told me they're playing Tennessee in November, so I am trying to get down there for that game," Moore said.

Despite having one of her best friends on the Bruins' bench, Moore's loyalty won't be divided in that game.

"Go Vols," Moore said. "I want them to do well, but at the same time for Tennessee to win."

Like other former Lady Vols, Moore followed last year's team online and was aware of their struggles and how the season ended with a loss in the first round of the NCAA tourney.

"I heard about it," Moore said. I didn't get a chance to watch it. I was overseas. It was shocking because we're used to getting past the first rounds, but I did hear some things about their season in general, how they were up and down, a little bit inconsistent with things and being able to find their way.

"It was a little shocking but looking at the season it was something that needed to happen. The new ones that come in you just try to get them under your wing and lead them to where they need to go, the reputation, what you need to uphold, what it's all about."

Moore has just completed her own difficult season with the Liberty, but she managed to put together a solid season with averages of 6.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game with a career-high nine helpers against Washington this season, the fourth time she has had nine assists in one game in her four-year WNBA career. Moore ranked in the top 10 in six statistical categories in the league this season – Loree Moore stats.

Loree Moore sets up the play for the New York Liberty. (MSG Photos)

"I was really working hard in the off-season, especially in Russia," Moore said. "Keep healthy – that was my biggest off-season goal was to stay healthy, keeping my knee strong, keeping my body strong, being able to withstand any type of nagging injury that will occur. The other part is mental – keeping calm. And working on my game. Adding things to my game as a point guard, looking to score more. It was a balance of things of on the court workouts and also relaxing so you can come strong when you get back to basketball."

Moore was in the pool of the players for the USA Senior National Team in 2006 – the team played an exhibition game in Knoxville – but a knee injury kept her out of action. She would welcome another chance to play on the national team, which will be coached by UConn's Geno Auriemma in the London Olympics in 2012.

"I would like to give it a go," Moore said. "I played for Geno with the junior (team) so I know his coaching style and what he wants and expects. I think it would be a lot of fun to be able to play for him again."

Moore was drafted in the first round by New York in 2005 and has remained with the Liberty for the past five seasons.

"I do have a comfort level but it's a business, too," she said. "You've got to make sure you're performing and this season has been rough for everybody across the board. I am just making sure that I am staying consistent and leading the team like I know I am capable of doing."

The Liberty went from being one game away from the WNBA Finals a year ago to missing the playoffs this season.

"Every game is important in the league," Moore said. "Parity-wise it's even. Every night you've got to come ready to play. You can't just come and thinking you're going to win games because that team that you're playing against is fighting for something. For me, I think that's the biggest thing I'm learning.

"As a team, just learning overall. We've had all types of adversity throughout this season, and I think we're growing and maturing as a team. In the off-season we've got to make sure we get better individually and then bring it over when we get back together."

Moore is comfortable now in New York, but the California native did need an adjustment period for the pace of the city that never sleeps.

"Being from California and moving over here I have to say it took me about a year and a half to get used to the pace and just how things are," Moore said. "California is just so laidback, slow pace, you get there when you get there, and here everybody is on the move, and you've got to go fast. It's starting to grow on me."

When Moore had free time she enjoyed being out in the city.

"When I have some down time I like to catch up on sleep, but you can't really catch up on sleep," she said. "I really like to go to movies or go shopping or just get out. You're kind of in buildings and hotels all the time so I try to get out of the house as much as possible and go to a good restaurant or just walk around. Do something where I am outside."

Moore remains close to her former Tennessee teammates, including Butts, Ashley Robinson of the Seattle Storm and Shyra Ely of the Chicago Sky.

"I saw Tasha when we went to LA," Moore said. "It was great seeing her and Nikki. It's always a pleasure to see some old family from Tennessee. I saw Shyra when she was here. Ashley was in town. It's always good seeing someone coming in town and being able to hang out and have a good time."

There were 13 former Lady Vols in the WNBA this season and of the eight teams in the playoffs, six have Tennessee players on the roster. Moore said the common denominator is Pat Summitt.

"She prepares us for this – the competitive level of what you need to do individually and as a team," Moore said. "She was always preparing us for what you're going to expect if you did play basketball or if you didn't play basketball. She prepared you on the business side. You have to be able to handle people in a certain way, you have to be able to still do your job despite the fact that you may have something that you're not particularly in favor of or working under or for that particular person, so she prepared us in a lot of different ways for what to expect.

"I think her being so hard on us, her expectation level being so high, that you always strive for perfection."

During the telephone interview with Moore – which took place in a lounge off the court at Pratt Pavilion before the Lady Vols held workouts one recent afternoon in September – Summitt walked in and needed the room for a meeting.

When told that it was Moore on the line, Summitt reached for the phone.

"Is that Loree? Hi, Loree! What's up?" Summitt said.

The two chatted briefly with Summitt telling Moore that she would call back later.

"Good talking to you," Summitt said. "Love ya."

Moore, a player who was in conflict with Summitt for half of her college career, said she now cherishes her connection to Tennessee.

"It's a big bond," Moore said. "It's something you grow into, and you hold onto it, even when you're gone."

A FEW FUN QUESTIONS WITH LOREE: Loree Moore, who was known as LMo during her time at Tennessee, isn't yet on board with social media, such as Tasha Butts Twitter and Shyra Ely Twitter.

"Shyra has tried to get me on there, and Tasha has threatened that she was going to open me up an account – like do everything for me to have an account," Moore said. "I don't understand it, and Shyra is trying to explain it to me. I don't have Facebook or MySpace or any of that stuff either, but they're trying to get me in it. I am old-fashioned."

Moore graciously agreed to answer some offbeat questions so that fans would know her a little better.

If you dressed up for Halloween to trick or treat, what would your costume be: "Ha, ha. That's a good one. Can it be funny? (Of course.) I would be Alexis because so many people call me Alexis. I would try to dress up like Alexis for Halloween. They all call me grandma because I have a little side-to-side walk. I wobble." (Alexis has grandma knees, so that would actually work.)

Favorite song or songs: "One of my favorites is 'Hakuna Matata' from ‘The Lion King.' That's a good one. The other song I like to hear is ‘Remember the Time,' by Michael Jackson. I am old school so I kind of like any R&B, like Janet Jackson songs. She's one of my favorite artists."

Food you could eat every day: "Pizza or chicken wings."

Favorite smell: "A new car smell. I've been putting vanilla in my car. I like that one, too."

One item you must have with you every day: "My wallet so if need to buy something I am ready to go."

Favorite movie: "The Lion King or Aladdin. I'm a Disney girl."

If Pat Summitt was not your former coach but was now your pet, what would you name her: "What would I name her? Gotti. Like the gangster."

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