Freshman has massive shoes to fill
Published: Thursday, November 10, 2011
Updated: Friday, November 11, 2011 01:11
The expectations for 2011 ESPNU's highest-ranked recruit, who will be coming to women's basketball's most successful program of the last 10 years, were already high enough. Those expectations increased exponentially when she took UConn legend and recent graduate Maya Moore's number, 23.
For the 6-foot forward, pressure is not something to shy away from. Instead, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis considers it a good challenge and something she looks forward to.
"It's exciting to play for the program," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "A lot of people don't get a chance to be on a team. Most people aren't contending for a national championship every year."
Mosqueda-Lewis comes to Storrs from Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif. Mater Dei has a rich history of successful athletes at the collegiate level, including USC quarterbacks Matt Leinart and Matt Barkley and Hawaii's Colt Brennan.
In her days at Mater Dei, Mosqueda-Lewis had no shortage of accomplishments. Last year, her team won the Fab-50 National Title as the best high school women's basketball team in the country. It was the second year in a row that her school won the award.
She also earned the Gatorade National Player of the Year award last season. She was the first California player to do so in 21 years. Legendary center Lisa Leslie of Morningside High School in Inglewood last won the award in 1990.
One of the things that impressed scouts about Mosqueda-Lewis was her maturity. It is common for her to pass up shots when a teammate is open for a better look. Aside from maturity, she demonstrates an incredible ability to defend and a high level of offensive versatility.
Outside of basketball, Mosqueda-Lewis said she loves cooking, and that her favorite thing to do when she's not playing basketball is sleep. At some point in her life, she would love the chance to take on former Husky great Sue Bird in a one-on-one game.
As a native of sunny Southern California, the change in weather has caused her to get used to wearing heavy jackets more frequently.
"It's not been warm," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "But I finally got a winter coat. I wish there were more days like [Tuesday], but I know there are few left.
She said the snowstorm that occurred the weekend before Halloween was the first time she physically saw snow fall from the sky. For her teammates, it was all too common, but Mosqueda-Lewis thought it was cool to see.
"That was really pretty," she said. "My teammates said that's not that cool, but I've never seen it."
So far this season, the pressure has not gotten to her. In her first 19 minutes of play, she scored 14 points, going 4-7 on 3-pointers.
Mosqueda-Lewis fits in perfectly with the Huskies' team mentality of practicing and playing hard. She's ready to play and take on the highest level of competition that the NCAA has to offer. Auriemma typically recruits players who are winners, and Mosqueda-Lewis is no exception.
"We're all winners. It's in our heads," Mosqueda-Lewis said.