The resume is as impressive as any player that has ever played for UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma.
Breanna Stewart won countless prestigious national awards during her career at Cicero-North Syracuse (N.Y.) High School. She has won multiple gold medals as part of her affiliation with USA Basketball. And, at 6-foot-4, her extraordinary skill set provides her with the liberty to push the ball up the floor like a guard, face-up to the basket on the wing where she and score from the perimeter or off the dribble and post-up on the block.
Not since four-time first team All-American and 2012 Olympian Maya Moore arrived on the UConn campus in 2007 has there been this much hype surrounding a single recruit. Yet, while Stewart has excelled on the court, off the court it is not immediately evident that she is this gifted athletically.
Sure, her height and her 7-foot-1 wingspan are a dead giveaway that she is a member of the Huskies. Aside from that, though, Stewart is your every-day college freshman. There is no cockiness. Only a desire to fit in on and off the court.
“She’s just a normal kid,’’ UConn freshman and Stewart’s roommate Moriah Jefferson said. “She’s like one of the funniest people you’ll ever meet. She’s crazy, silly. She’s doing everything that she should. She’s a good person to be around. And she’s a great influence on everybody’s life.’’
Stewart does not take herself seriously, which makes her all the more of an endearing presence. This is a humble individual who signed her national Letter of Intent on the hood of her Honda CRV outside of her father Brian’s office in downtown Syracuse. She did not see the need to have a high profile ceremony at her high school.
The way many of her new teammates have best characterized Stewart is “goofy’’ and someone who enjoys having fun. UConn fifth-year senior Caroline Doty said that Stewart and junior center Stefanie Dolson, a playful goofball in her own right, are quite the pair.
“You would never know that she was the national Gatorade Player of the Year,’’ Doty said. “She’s her own goofy. You just have to watch her. There’s no explaining how goofy she is. A good goofy. Like a funny goofy.’’
Stewart is also a practical joker. Teaming with Jefferson, fellow Huskies’ newbie and next door neighbor Morgan Tuck has been a regular target. The two of them shoot Tuck with Nerf guns. They hit her with pillows. Jefferson admitted that they do, basically, anything to get a rise out of Tuck.
“Me and her have a lot of fun messing with Morgan,’’ Jefferson said. “So we’ll do like little pranks and jokes. But I love Breanna on and off the court.’’
Said Stewart: “We play a lot of jokes on Morgan, whether it’s just putting anything in her bed. I think the last thing was a box of Capri Sun. Just put it underneath her sheets and she’ll go to lay down and she’ll lay down on the box of Capri Sun. But we just have a really good time with her. It’s fun to pick on her.’’
Stewart has long taken great pride in being a well rounded individual. Her success athletically can be measured by statistics, wins and awards.
She amassed 2,367 points, 1,389 rebounds, 337 assists, 325 steals and 634 blocks in 119 games over five varsity seasons at Cicero-North. Stewart led the Northstars to an 84-13 record (.866) over last four seasons, including winning the state Class AA Federation championship and being recognized as the consensus national Player of the Year as a senior.
Looking deeper into just who Stewart is as a person, however, these numbers paint only a portion of her true being. Cicero-North coach Eric Smith said that Stewart would spend 30 to 45 minutes following every game signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans no matter how well she had played.
“It’s not something that is a burden to me or anything like that when that happens,’’ Stewart said. “It’s just something I did. I think I did (sign every autograph) unless my coach told me we had to go because sometimes my teammates got a little upset because we were at the gym for a little while longer. But unless someone told me we had to leave I would sign every autograph that people wanted.’’
“You can’t tell she’s a tremendous basketball player until you see her play,’’ Smith said. “If you talk to her she’s an average everyday teenager who loves to have fun, hang out with friends, go to the movies, joke around. And then she gets on the court and she can flip the switch and she’ll rip your head off because she’s just that type of competitor.’’
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