The Connecticut women's basketball team is entering the post-Moore era. The transition for the team's fans officially began Friday with First Night ceremonies for the men's and women's teams at Gampel Pavilion.
Those who are missing Moore, two-time national player of the year and winner of two national championships, might be a bit confused at first. And that's understandable with Mosqueda-Lewis on the floor wearing Moore's 23, wearing her hair in a bun, and with high expectations for her career.
And the expectations indeed are quite high for the 2010-11 national high school player of the year. Mosqueda-Lewis, from Anaheim, Calif., averaged 21.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.6 steals in her senior season at Mater Dei High School. Auriemma, who has had his share of great players, says she is the best shooter he's ever seen coming out of high school.
But he said it is unfair to compare her to Moore. Auriemma reflected on Moore's first game at UConn when she was "the most dominant player every possession."
"Anybody who tries to compare them, and I've read it a lot of places that she has the skill set of Maya – no she doesn't," Auriemma said. "She's a great shooter. She's not as athletic as Maya. She doesn't elevate like Maya, defend like Maya, or rebound like Maya. Then again, nobody else has, either.
"Kaleena is a great shooter. There's no doubt about that. She shoots the ball as well as anyone I've ever seen coming out of high school. It seems like every time the ball leaves her hand, it's going to go in. She knows it and everybody knows it. Now the key is going to be when [opponents] start to find out, what is she going to do and what can we do to help her do other things. That's where her competitiveness is going to come in."
Auriemma said Mosqueda-Lewis might do things in a more subtle fashion. He called her a work in progress and said she has to find her way to impact the team.
She's only 17. She doesn't turn 18 until Nov. 3 and that night she will wear the UConn uniform for the first time in an exhibition game against Assumption. Mosqueda-Lewis says she needs to work on her 1-on-1 defense, so that makes her no different than any freshman – male or female.
But she realizes it was a bold move taking No. 23.
"People were telling me that before I came in here," she said. "But I've worn the number for about six or seven years now and I wasn't ready to let it go.
"I did ask [Maya]. She said, ‘Really? You're not going to let it rest a little bit? Not going to let it sit? I'm just leaving.' I'm like, ‘Can I still have it Maya?' And she said, ‘All right, I guess so."
Andre Drummond, the freshman fixation on the men's roster, initially said he would wear Kemba Walker's No. 15. He quickly thought better of it and switched to No. 12.
Auriemma doesn't seem too concerned about the jersey number. He simply wanted Mosqueda-Lewis to ask Moore first – and she did. Now Auriemma, true to his form, can use her choice to challenge the freshman whenever he wants to.
"I don't know if kids think that way any more," Auriemma said of the number. "I think kids just don't associate those things any more. It's not like [when] everybody knew No. 24 was Willie Mays and No. 7 was Mickey Mantle, you know? You look around today and it doesn't mean as much any more. And, of course, you don't put them off limits to people because you can run out of numbers.
"Then again, she's from California and everybody from California thinks they are a lot better than they are and a lot smarter than everybody else. She'll find out it's not as easy as she thinks it's going to be.
"At the same time, she has worked so hard in this last month that she just might be, like really good. Who knows? I don't think she should be at all hesitant about wearing No. 23."