Embracing the Valley, Embracing the Opportunity

Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury high fives Sophie Cunningham #9 and Moriah Jefferson #8 during the first half of the WNBA game at Footprint Center on May 21, 2023

Mercury guard Moriah Jefferson is excited to make the most of her new home, new teammates, new fans and playing with the GOAT

By Mychael Ramirez

The adage of life being like a box of chocolates, full of uncertainty and unknowns, is undoubtedly true, especially in the unpredictability of professional sports.

But when WNBA veteran point guard Moriah Jefferson, one of the league’s top free agents, chose to sign with the three-time WNBA Champion Phoenix Mercury in February, she knew what she was getting into.

It meant playing in front of the best fan base in the W.

The X-Factor are a true homecourt advantage. In her seventh season, she’s familiar with the fervor and passion the Phoenix home crowd offers – and Jefferson says, “it’s so much better” now that they’re on her side.

“I mean, the fans here always show up in support and in great numbers, too,” said Jefferson.

With more than 14,000 in attendance for the home opener at Footprint Center, Jefferson reflects on her first regular season home game in the Valley.

“The crowd was amazing, very ecstatic, always into the game, always on our side. So, to have fans like that rooting for you instead of hearing them cheer against you is a lot different. I’d rather keep it this way.”

Jefferson feeds off the crowd and the Mercury’s newest guard is excited for what’s to come this season.

“It really brings the momentum and energy behind our team. So, we appreciate the fans for everything they do and for them to keep coming out in great numbers.”

Just as Jefferson knows what she can expect from the fans, the fans know what they can expect from the former University of Connecticut Husky and four-time NCAA champion.

High energy, efficient scoring at all levels and aggressive defense. Jefferson was specifically targeted in free agency to help improve outside shooting where she has started the season 54 percent from beyond the arc (6-11) in her first three games for the Mercury.

However, the 5’6 guard takes pride in her defense almost more than her offense.

“I’m going to give 100 percent effort every single time. I love basketball. And I think that my defense fuels my offense. So being able to pick up full court, get into some passing lanes, get some steals, that helps me and my energy get out in transition, and that’s when I think I’m at my best,” said Jefferson.

Moriah Jefferson #8 of the Phoenix Mercury dribbles the ball during the game against the Chicago Sky on May 21, 2023 at Footprint Center

Her passion for the game started when she was a young girl in Dallas, Texas, shooting hoops with her brothers. Years later, the opportunity to play for Phoenix presented Jefferson with the opportunity to accomplish a dream – play with the greatest of all time, Diana Taurasi, with whom she now shares the backcourt with night in and night out.

“She’s one of the best to ever play the game. It’s always been my dream, you know, to be able to play with her. In the last seven years, I’ve been playing against her. Now I’m finally getting a chance to play with her. She’s a great leader. She knows the game inside and out. So, it makes it easy to play with her. I’m excited I get a chance to share the court with her.”

Taurasi was influential in recruiting Jefferson to the Mercury, showing her around the facilities and taking her out to breakfast while visiting Phoenix early on in free agency. The GOAT is a vocal encourager to Jefferson in her first year with the Mercury.

“Dee has been a huge part of allowing me to be myself, being my cheerleader, telling me to play my game, stay in my area of comfortability and not try to do anything outside of that. I’m just happy to have her and happy that she’s here with me for everything,” added Jefferson.

Moriah Jefferson #8 of the Phoenix Mercury and Diana Taurasi #3 of the Phoenix Mercury celebrate during the game against the Chicago Sky on MAY 21, 2023 at Footprint Center

With only a few games in the books, Jefferson is excited to get better every day and put in the work this season alongside her teammates.

“This is not an easy league to play in. Every single day is going to be a grind. And that grind is really going to help bring us together as a team.”

Now playing for her third team, Jefferson remains humble and thankful to lace it up and play in the WNBA, motivated daily by her faith and the opportunity to pursue her passion.

She reminds herself daily to “keep God first in my life, understanding that my body is just His vessel and I’m here to do His work and to enjoy every single day.”

Jefferson knows this is a competitive league and recognizes she could have been like many of those impacted by roster cuts.

“So, I’m enjoying the process every single day, not taking one day for granted and enjoying the journey and taking my time to enjoy this journey.”

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