UConn sophomores Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck were only weeks away from beginning their senior year in high school when they were members of the 2011 gold medal-winning U.S. U-19 team in Puerto Montt, Chile. The team featured the UConn trio of Stefanie Dolson, Bria Hartley and then-incoming freshman Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, then-Tennessee incoming freshman Ariel Massengale and then-Duke incoming freshman Elizabeth Williams.
Stewart would ultimately lead the team in scoring (11.2), rebounding (7.3) and blocks (1.7) and earn a spot on the five-player all-tournament team. Tuck averaged 3.6 points and 2.4 rebounds. Stewart started three of the nine games. Tuck made five starts as leadership from either player was not required.
Fast-forwarding to the FIBA U-19 World Championship this month in Lithuania, times certainly have changed for Stewart and Tuck. They now were being asked to lead a team in search of its fifth straight gold medal. They were unquestionably up to the challenge as the U.S. finished 9-0.
“It’s a great feeling,’’ Stewart said. “I think each one is special in its own way, but this one was really exciting because it was a new group. We won the gold with the other 19-under team in Chile, but I had a different role. I was younger and this one I’m more of a leader because I’ve been in these situations before.
“I think realizing that me and the other veterans our part definitely played a big role and kind of making it so the younger players adjusted and making it so we were able to win the gold medal because we needed everyone to play well.’’
Stewart and Tuck started all nine games in this tournament. They were the top two scorers for the U.S. They also were the two players who logged the most minutes, with Tuck, in particular, thriving in a leadership role.
Stewart claimed her fifth gold medal. Tuck now has four.
“I think it’s different just because now I just had a different role, especially from the last 19,’’ Tuck said. “I definitely had a much bigger role, more of a leadership role. And it’s still great to win a gold, but I think this time just because I got to contribute more I feel like it’s a little bit better.’’
Stewart, the tournament MVP, averaged a team-high 16.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 1.7 steals and 24.7 minutes. She set a team records in scoring (152 points) and 3-point shooting percentage (.583).
Tuck averaged 13.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.1 steals and 23.0 minutes. She was second on the team in scoring and first in steals (eighth overall in the tournament).
“I think it’s a great feeling just to see that all the work that we put in, especially in training camp doing two-a-days, and for it to all pay off in the end I think that it’s a great feeling,’’ Tuck said.
Here are Stewart’s thoughts on being named the tournament MVP …
“The gold medal is special,’’ Stewart said. “MVP is nice. It’s gravy, though, because you’re here to win the gold medal.’’