The women’s basketball team has shown flashes of brilliance this season. The Trojans looked strong when they defeated No. 25 Texas A&M on the road in November and when they dominated Colorado to open up conference play — and even last weekend, when they heartbreakingly lost to No. 13 UCLA by just four points.
However, the team has also experienced the lowest of lows, recently snapping a seven-game losing streak: a disastrous run that sent them plummeting down the Pac-12 standings. Part of their descent can be explained by the unexpected. There was senior guard Jordan Adams’ ACL tear in December, which may end her collegiate career (barring a medical redshirt). Sophomore guard Aliyah Mazyck’s foot fracture kept her out for two weeks, and the team’s leading scorer, junior forward Kristen Simon, had an unexplained three-game absence.
But within all of the Trojans’ misfortune, there has been one pleasant surprise — the play of true freshman point guard Minyon Moore, which even she was not fully anticipating.
“I didn’t come in here expecting to make such a big impact,” Moore said. “But as I’ve started to play and get in the groove of college basketball, I’ve started to get the confidence.”
Averaging 10.8 points and 4.58 assists (eighth in the Pac-12), Moore is stepping up her game at a time when her team needs her the most. For her, the Trojans’ recent string of bad luck is no reason to back down or make excuses, especially considering what she had to overcome just to become a Division I basketball player.
“I tore both my ACLs and meniscuses when I was high school,” Moore said. “Those were probably the biggest challenges that I’ve had to face. Just having back-to-back ACL injuries and surgeries and keeping my mindset correct because I had to work, work, work in order to get scholarships. That was the biggest adversity that I’ve had to face, but going through that experience has shown me that I can get through anything.”
While Moore was scratching and clawing to receive scholarship offers after her injuries, her older sister Mariya Moore, a more heralded recruit out of high school, was already starring at Louisville. Now a junior averaging 12.8 points a game, Mariya continues to be a source of inspiration and rivalry for her younger sister.
“Growing up we had a lot of competition,” Moore said. “Our dad would always have us go out and play one-on-one versus each other. Seeing her with all these accolades, and seeing her in college basketball and as a McDonald’s All-American has given me a goal to set for myself. It’s like she has that last name on the back of her shirt, so I need to go out and play for our last name. It’s given me something to work for.”
When asked if she strives to one day be better than her older sister, Moore responds as one might expect a younger sibling to.
“Yeah, definitely,” Moore said. “She and I joke around all the time about our teams, and if we play each other, who’s going to win. It’s always a family competition, but it’s all love.”
When watching Moore, the most striking aspect of her play in both practice and games is how she conducts herself as a floor general, despite being among the youngest players on the team. Whether she is talking on defense, making commands on offense or screaming calls from the bench, the freshman’s presence is always felt.
“Being a freshman, I don’t really consider it as, ‘These are upperclassmen so I can’t be a leader to them,’” Moore said. “Since I’m a point guard, I have to take that leadership role, and if my team doesn’t know where to go, I have to lead them. I think that I have adopted a leadership position even though I’m a freshman.”
Despite her rapid ascent in such a short period of time, Moore knows she will need to improve parts of her game to reach the next level.
“My shot and my left hand,” Moore said. “In the beginning of the season it was really easy for me, because I’m really right-hand dominant and teams didn’t really know about me yet, so I was able to go right every time and score really easily, but now that they’ve scouted me I need to change it up.”
Quarterback Sam Darnold may be the most celebrated freshman at USC, but there is another newcomer on campus who is making waves. And like Darnold, she just may be the spark that turns a season around.
“If we bring our effort and talent, we can win every game that we play from here on out,” Moore said. “I see these next upcoming games as opportunities for us to show that we’re bouncing back, and we’re coming out stronger.”