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National

UConn's Moriah Jefferson Accomplishes Goal Of 4 Straight Championships

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And when the women of the University of Connecticut basketball team were crowned NCAA champions, that made it four years in a row they'd won the championship - a first in that tournament. And one constant - their fast, fierce, five-foot-seven point guard.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Jefferson gets it up in time. Good if it goes - and she drills the three.

MONTAGNE: Moriah Jefferson hit that buzzer beater at the end of the first quarter of Tuesday's title game. We reached her before she got back on a plane to the University of Connecticut to ask about the big win.

MORIAH JEFFERSON: It's unbelievable. I mean, to come to Connecticut and to have a goal of winning four national championships and then to accomplish that goal - it's nothing short of amazing.

MONTAGNE: Well, when you say that was your goal, would that have been the case when you entered as a freshman - saying, we want to win four championship in a row?

JEFFERSON: Yes, that's something that we all had a conversation, you know, even before we came to school, that that was our goal - to win four national championships. And four years later, here we are.

MONTAGNE: And your role - what did you figure your role to be?

JEFFERSON: As a point guard coming in - I was a scoring guard coming out of high school so it was an adjustment because I was playing with so many good players that I felt like I didn't need to shoot the ball at all. But I just figured out how to be a confident point guard and how to share the ball with my teammates, and not only that, but get my shots when I needed them.

MONTAGNE: Could you tell us something about yourself because I think your story is quite interesting? I know you were homeschooled. Was there some part of homeschooling that made you who you are?

JEFFERSON: Definitely. I mean, my parents, they raised me up to be a God-fearing woman. And, you know, just being a homeschooler, that's something that I've learned throughout my entire life. And you have to learn how to be disciplined when you're homeschooled because a lot of times you're doing the work on your own. And then when you're playing basketball, I was actually playing for a homeschool team. So we were competing against all the high schools in my local area but, you know, we didn't go to school there so.

MONTAGNE: To get back to the team - there's something interesting about the Huskies. And that is the team has so dominated the competitors that it's actually generated some criticism for being so good and so singular. One Boston Globe columnist tweeted, and I'm quoting, "hate to punish them for being great, but they're killing women's game. Watch? No thanks." What do you and your teammates say to that?

JEFFERSON: We don't believe in that statement at all. You know, we come out, and we work extremely hard each and every day. And we play to win. I think the style of basketball that we play is entertaining enough. You see the Warriors and all these other teams that are dominating their sport, and you don't hear people saying anything about their being bad for their game. So just because we're winning by such a large margin, I don't understand how that's bad for the women's game. If anything, I think it will help it grow and help other teams get better along the way.

MONTAGNE: Well it certainly should be good for younger girls that look up to you. Do you get much of a chance to interact with little girls who want to grow up and be just like you?

JEFFERSON: Oh yeah, definitely. When I'm home, I go back to a local rec center where I'm from in DeSoto, Texas. And I train a lot of different girls and just try to help them, give them some of the pointers that I learned along the way.

MONTAGNE: Well, I'm wondering - as a senior, what's next for you?

JEFFERSON: WNBA and then hopefully overseas after that. So I really just have to wait for the draft and go from there.

MONTAGNE: Well, good luck to you.

JEFFERSON: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: And congratulations.

JEFFERSON: Thank you very much.

MONTAGNE: Moriah Jefferson is a point guard for the Connecticut Huskies women's basketball team. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.