Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Women’s NCAA Final: Freshman has UConn’s star power
College basketball » With Breanna Stewart, don’t judge book by cover.
First Published Apr 09 2013 01:15 pm • Last Updated Apr 10 2013 12:21 am

New Orleans • Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma likes to joke that God played a huge trick on everyone in college basketball when he created Breanna Stewart.

When the 6-foot-4 freshman forward walks on the court for Tuesday’s national championship game, 6:30 p.m. (MDT) on ESPN, against Louisville, will people do a double take? "This is the best athlete in college basketball, by far? Really? That’s got to be an April Fool’s joke," Auriemma said.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

With a gym rat pallor honed by countless hours at the YMCA and biceps and triceps nowhere to be found, Stewart is an unlikely looking star. Until she gets her hands on the ball. The kid from Syracuse, N.Y., can hit jumpers from any zip code, block shots when it’s least expected and run the floor like a guard. Against Notre Dame in Sunday’s semifinal, she scored a career-high 29 points, had four blocks and five rebounds.

"A lot of people say I’m skinny," said Stewart who is skinny. When she went into Auriemma’s office wearing a sleeveless jersey one day, her coach cracked, "Put a shirt on. Don’t show those muscles."

Louisville coach Jeff Walz isn’t surprised that Stewart, the 2012 national high school player of the year, has lit up the NCAA Tournament. At the 2012 Olympics, Walz sat next to Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim at the gold-medal game. "[Boeheim] was like, ‘Wow, you know, there’s this kid that plays open gym with our women at Syracuse, she’s going to UConn, she’s one of the best players I’ve ever seen,’" Walz recalled Monday.

"I’m like, yeah, I know," he said, bemoaning facing Stewart the next three years.

Stewart honed her game playing hoops with her father, Brian. (He’s 5-foot-11 and her mom is about 5-foot-8.) "He was one of those YMCA junkie guys," Stewart said. "This is the first year we haven’t watched [the NCAA Tournament] together. He started watching it with my mom," Stewart said, then paused for effect. "Not the same."

When Stewart found herself in a scoring slump late in the regular season, her father helped lift her up. So did extra time in the gym with associate head coach Chris Dailey.

"Stewie really takes things to heart and she puts a lot of pressure on herself," Auriemma said. "And when she wasn’t playing well, it got into her (head) pretty severely and she let it affect her. She wasn’t strong enough mentally and strong enough emotionally to just kind of put it aside."

In the Big East Tournament, Stewart rediscovered her shot, and her sense of self. With renewed confidence, she’s dominated the postseason, averaging 19 points, five rebounds, while blocking 18 shots in seven games.


story continues below
story continues below

She earned Most Outstanding Play honors in the Bridgeport Regional and helped UConn reach its sixth straight Final Four. If the Huskies win their eighth national title, she would accomplish something that neither Diana Taurasi nor Maya Moore achieved as freshmen.

On the podium during press conferences, she shies from the spotlight. Stewart pulls the neck of her shirt over her face when she thinks she doesn’t answer a reporter’s question just right. Away from such a staged environment, Stewart is relaxed and funny, completely at ease.

The same holds true for her demeanor on the court. She smiles after hitting a big shot and commands the spotlight. After beating Notre Dame, Auriemma said he’s never had a freshman have a bigger game in such a huge moment, adding, "And I hope she’s got another one left in her Tuesday night."



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.