As a freshman, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis won the Big East Sixth Man of the Year Award, the Big East Freshman of the Year Award and was the Big East Tournament Most Outstanding Player. She was also named to the Big East All-Freshman Team, the All-Big East Second Team and the Big East All-Tournament team. During the regular season, she was named Big East Freshman of the Week eight times.
After averaging 15 points and 5.4 rebounds as a freshman, Mosqueda-Lewis is the subject of All-American talk.
"She has to be All-Connecticut first," said coach Geno Auriemma, who is entering his 27th season at UConn. "I don't think Kaleena's goals this year should be to be an All-American. I think her goals should be to be a better player and if she can be a better player than whatever happens after that would be great."
Auriemma wants to see Mosqueda-Lewis improve her ball handling, defense and rebounding, all aspects of her game that she has worked on over the summer and in the preseason. He knows she can score, but he wants to see her develop a more rounded game. His expectations are higher because he plans to give her a more expanded role. Whether she will be a starter this year is still unknown.
"I think if Kaleena understands throughout the season that making shots is part of basketball and doing all of the other things is a huge part of basketball, then she has a chance to be really good," Auriemma said.
Whether she is shooting practice jumpers or hitting three-pointers in the Big East Championship, she makes it look effortless the way she sinks her shots. Last season Mosqueda-Lewis led the team in three-point field goals with 93 – an average of 2.4 per game.
"She's extremely important," center Stefanie Dolson said of the sophomore forward. "Just for our team chemistry, for her to knock down shots, obviously she's our main three-point shooter."
Guard Caroline Doty believes Mosqueda-Lewis is turning into more of an inside-outside type player, which is evidence of her working on her post moves.
"We've seen that she can't only shoot, but she can use her body to get in the lane," Doty said.
The 6 foot forward will likely garner some more attention on the court after the season she had last year. According to Doty, "if she can really use that body and get by them, she's going to be impossible to guard. It's going to be very fun to see her develop."
Dolson, who feels rebounding is something all the Huskies can improve on, says she wants to see an improvement in the mental aspect of Mosqueda-Lewis' game.
"I think coach has gotten in her head a little bit," Dolson said. "She just has to do a good job of focusing on her game and always just working hard."
Mental mistakes are something all players have to battle with, Dolson said, admitting that she has had her own troubles as well. Dolson thinks Mosqueda-Lewis is going through that, but she is going to be just fine. "She'll push through," Dolson said.
The way the team regards Mosqueda-Lewis, it's almost as if she is entering her senior season. There are natural drawbacks related to inexperience and,whether it is real or not, there is always the dreaded sophomore slump looming in people's minds.
Auriemma and Mosqueda-Lewis met recently to talk about the issues that can bother young shooters. He offered his guidance to make sure she does not fall into the same trap. Auriemma believes when young players start to hit a lot of shots, they start to think that making shots is what makes a great player.
"When they miss shots, they stop playing because they think that's the only part of the game of basketball that matters is making shots."
It is an easy trap for young shooters to fall into, especially when they have seen a lot of early success, such as Mosqueda-Lewis.
"I think that experience has a lot to do with getting better," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "That one year of experience under my belt, I feel like I really learned a lot last season, whether it was offensively or defensively. The mental part of the game is a lot easier now, so I mean that year helped a lot."
Those are wise words from such a young player. Her mature response would make you believe she's been at UConn for a while now, but her freshman year was a big learning experience for her and she seemed to pick up some knowledge on the way.
"What really stuck out the most is that the little things matter," Mosqueda-Lewis said, admitting that during last season it is something she did not realize, even if it is something Auriemma stressed.
"All the losses we had last year were off of little things like rebounds and passes and stuff like that," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "I really put an emphasis on it this year."
It is hard to imagine how much better she can get in just one year. As a freshman, Mosqueda-Lewis has already found herself in the UConn record books. Her 93 three-point field goals last season are third all-time in UConn history for a single season and her 15 points per game and .384 3-point percentage ranks ninth in UConn single season history as well.
"If she wants to be an All-American, she has to do all the things that Maya [Moore] did and right now she's not there," said Auriemma.
Mosqueda-Lewis' team-high 569 points last season is second all-time in UConn single season freshman scoring record, only behind Maya Moore.
"I don't think that anyone else is going to play like Maya [Moore]," said Mosqueda-Lewis. "I think Maya [Moore] plays like Maya [Moore] and I'm going to just play to the best of my ability."