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Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis on Becoming a Champion at All Levels

It’s easy to see that Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis brings incredible three-point shooting to the Seattle Storm.

It’s the things that aren’t so easy to see that make her WNBA coaches and teammates love the former UConn star.

Her coaches and teammates rave over her ability to set screens. They admire her high basketball IQ. They appreciate her willingness to welcome new players. They smile when they think about her ability to make her teammates laugh.

“She’s just a smart player,” said acting Storm coach Gary Kloppenburg. “She knows how to set up screens. She’s really good setting up back screens and using screens. Technically, she really knows the game.”

Sami Whitcomb has been Kaleena’s teammate in Seattle since 2017. Like their coach, Sami has the utmost respect for Kaleena’s ability to help her teammates on and off the court.

“Off the court, she’s just one of those people that brings the team together,” Whitcomb said. “Her personality is pretty infectious … she’s very easy to be around. [She has] a very inviting personality as well. My first year, she was probably the person that I got along with initially just because she makes the point of bringing you in and trying to include you and her personality is such that you want to be around her.”

Kaleena is also committed to improving her game, which she’s been doing since the age of 13.

When Kaleena first started playing basketball in her hometown of Anaheim Hills, California, she was a post player who used her size to score close to the basket. When she was 13, she started competing against players who were 17 years old. She was no longer able to force her way to the rim because her opponents were taller and stronger than her. She realized she needed to develop an outside shot.

She knew that changing the way she played wouldn’t be easy, but she had supportive family and friends who would do anything to help her become a perimeter shooter.

“My dad and I just got in the gym every morning at 6:00 a.m., starting in sixth or seventh grade, shooting every morning,” said Mosqueeda-Lewis, who added that these early workouts were part of her morning routine in middle school and high school.

By the time Kaleena was a senior at Mater Dei High School, she was one of the best three-point shooters in California. She graduated as Mater Dei’s all-time leader in career points (2,744), three-pointers made (337) and rebounds (876). She was a 2011 McDonald’s All-American and WBCA All-American.

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Then Kaleena made the cross-country move to Storrs, where she graduated in 2015 as the NCAA’s all-time leader in career three-pointers made (398). Although that record has since been broken, Kaleena’s memories of her three national championships are firmly intact. When asked what she remembers about playing at UConn, the first thing she thought about was the 2013 national championship. The Huskies lost to Notre Dame twice in the regular season and in the Big East championship game that year, but knocked off the Irish in the Final Four. Then they defeated Louisville to win the title.

“That one sticks out because that was a tough year for us,” she said. “It wasn’t as easy as everyone maybe thought it was. We worked our butts off that season, with Kelly Faris, and Caroline Doty, Stefanie (Dolson), Bria (Hartley), Stewie (Breanna Stewart). That was a tough year for us so I think that one sticks out the most to me.”

After winning two more national titles in 2014 and 2015, she was the third overall pick in the 2015 WNBA Draft by Seattle. She has played about 12-14 minutes per game each season during her WNBA career, most of which has come off the bench. She suffered a knee injury that kept her out for about half of the 2017 season. She came back in 2018 and shot a career-best 42% (34-81) from behind the arc. Her perimeter shooting, coupled with the intangibles she brought off the bench, helped the Storm win the WNBA championship.

Kaleena still loves answering questions about that incredible season.

“I’ve won a high school championship and national championships in college, but I don’t think anything is going to compare to winning my first WNBA championship, especially with the group of people I got to win it with, people I’ve known since I was 15 years old, with Stewie and people who have become some of my best friends,” she said.

She didn’t have much time to enjoy that championship because she left for France about a week after the Storm won the championship. Mosqueda-Lewis has played in France for the last four years and while she enjoys it, it’s been tough because she literally has no offseason. She didn’t return to the USA until May 15, more than a week after the Storm’s training camp started.

Playing overseas from September through May also makes it tough for Kaleena to follow the UConn women’s basketball team.

“I’m never home and the time difference is pretty big,” she said. “I try to (keep up with UConn WBB) on Twitter, but it’s hard.”

As soon as she arrived back in the USA, Kaleena realized she will need to step up if the Storm want to repeat in 2019. Last year’s WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart is out for the year with a ruptured Achilles tendon. Sue Bird is out indefinitely with a knee injury. There will be more chances to play this season. She has started four of Seattle’s first seven games in 2019 after starting a total of five games from 2015-2018.

“As a team, I think we’re going to have some new challenges, but it’s going to be good for us,” Kaleena said before Seattle’s game at Indiana on June 11. “A lot of people are going to get opportunities and a chance to develop as players and I think new leaders are going to come into their own.”

During the Storm’s 84-82 victory over Indiana, Kaleena showed how her high basketball IQ can help the team. Late in the third quarter, she took a pass behind the arc and made a strong shot fake to get her defender in the air. She then drove into the paint and sank a floater to give the Storm a 63-52 lead, which was their biggest lead of the game. Seattle hung on to win 84-82 and improve to 4-3 on the season, which has included two long east-coast trips during the first three weeks.

“I’m just trying to improve in all areas, whether that be getting to the basket, just getting some open shots, and contributing as much as I can this year,” she said. “I know especially this season where we don’t have Sue and we don’t have Stewie, it’s going to take everybody contributing.”