The Moore High School girls basketball team is having its best season in years, and a big reason for it is senior point guard Daija Stafford.
In her first season with the squad after transferring from Eastern, the 5-foot-1 Stafford is averaging 9.6 points, 10 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game for the Mustangs (15-4 heading into Thursday night’s game against Valley). They already have won more games this season than they have in the past three combined.
Moore, which hasn’t had a winning season since 2009-10, hosts North Bullitt in a big 23rd District game at 6 p.m. Friday.
Q: How and when did you start playing basketball?
A: It’s a funny story. My mom put me in the YMCA (league) when I was, I think, 3 or 4 and she was my coach. I promised her (then) that I would never let her coach me again because I hated it.
A: I wanted to be on the floor all the time, but it had to be fair so she had to play me only a certain amount of minutes and I was like, “I want to play.” I didn’t like that I had to share minutes, but once you get older you understand that everybody gets to play.
Q: What do you like about basketball?
A: It’s just the feeling you get out there underneath the lights. It’s something totally different than playing any other sport. It’s a totally different feeling. It’s something you fall in love with. I feel free, I feel happy (on the court). It’s the only thing that I know. Like if I’m having a bad day, or if anything is going on at home, or anything like that, once I step on the court everything disappears.
Q: What has this season been like?
A: It’s been a different transition. Moore hasn’t always been one of the best teams and me and (coach Maurice) Ponder set out to build a program, change the atmosphere, change the culture and everybody else has followed. They got on board fast, and we’ve been having a great season.
Q: What’s your role on the team?
A: They joke and call me “Coach Daija” because when (Ponder) doesn’t say anything, I normally beat him to the punch. … I feel like there’s been talent here, but they just haven’t had the right leader, the right coach, everything that you need to have a good basketball team. So I push to be the mom of the team, or the second coach, if you want to call it that. I push them the hardest. I expect the most out of them.
Q: What are your goals for this season?
A: I want to beat North Bullitt (in the district) and I want to end with a winning season regardless of anything.
Q: You all host North Bullitt on Friday night. What’s it going to take to win?
A: Locking in on Lauren (Deel), most def, and then locking in on Hailey (Free) and trying to contain them, try to limit their points and play defense. We’ve just got to play defense, period.
Q: Do you want to play basketball in college?
A: Yeah, I want to play college ball, but I really want, after that, I want to coach somewhere. I want to coach, that’s my main passion. I want to be in basketball for the rest of my life. I know I’m not going to be able to play for the rest of my life, but I want to be able to coach. I want to be able to give the knowledge that I have, just do what I do as a point guard then be a coach and teach kids, whether it’s girls or boys, how to do that.
DAIJA STAFFORD UP CLOSE
Sports: Basketball and track & field.
Student-athlete: Daija, who has a 3.0 GPA, says her favorite class is medical terminology.
Family: Daija, 18, lives with her mother, Keisha; father, Don; younger stepsister, Selena, 16, who is a cheerleader at Moore; and younger stepbrother, Devon, 14.
Moore coach Maurice Ponder says: She’s been a leader, a floor general, so much so that at some tournaments and games, other coaches were saying, “You’ve got a mom out on the floor,” so she’s been a great leader.
She’s been a vital asset to our turnaround because of her leadership. She demands a motor out of the kids … she makes them play harder, she makes them practice harder.