It is difficult to fathom that the Stewie Era at UConn has reached its midpoint.
Two years have passed since Breanna Stewart joined the program. It has been two years of watching brilliance, waiting for her to make the next play that causes one to smile in amazement. We are in the midst of greatness. And after witnessing what the first two years have provided the world of women’s college, the next two years likely will be even more extraordinary.
“She’s talented, and she works really hard,’’ senior Bria Hartley said. “It’s just so hard for people to defend her because she can score in so many ways. She’s 6-4 and she’s able to hit the 3. She can drive by you. She’ll post you up inside. How can you stop someone who can literally do everything on the court? The crazy thing is, she’s good now, but just imagine how much better she’s going to be in the next two years.’’
Stewart is two days removed from becoming just the second player in the 33-year history of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament to be named Final Four Most Outstanding Player in each of her first two seasons. Only the great Cheryl Miller (1983, 1984) can stake claim to this accomplishment.
The Huskies are a combined 75-4 with two national championships in the Stewie Era. Individually, she has totaled 1,274 points, 553 rebounds and 184 blocks.
Only Maya Moore (1,432) had more points at this stage in their career than Stewart. Only Tina Charles (647), Moore (638) and Rebecca Lobo (554) had more rebounds. No one had more blocks.
For a player that is extremely goal-oriented, Stewart admitted that she is right where she wants to be at this juncture in her career.
“Definitely. I think that right now I’m in the right mindset,’’ Stewart said. “I know what it takes, obviously, to win national championships and taking it all going forward. I’m excited for next year what’s to come.’’
Stewart assembled one of the greatest seasons in the history of the program this year. She was named National Player of the Year of The Associated Press and the USBWA. She won the Naismith Award. She was named an AP first-team All-American and to the 10-player WBCA All-America team.
Stewart averaged 19.4 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.6 steals and 2.8 blocks in 30.5 minutes. She led the Huskies in scoring and blocks, had 11 double-doubles, scored at least 20 points in 21 games and also had a respectable 1.8 assist to turnover ratio.
She also set a team sophomore records with 777 points and 110 blocks. She was fourth all-time among sophomores in rebounding (324).
“What can you say about Stewie? She’s an incredible athlete and an incredible player,’’ junior Kiah Stokes said. “She’s awesome to have on this team on and off the court. She always is looking out for people. She works hard. She steps up in big games. When we need her, she’s there. Last year she kind of faded in and out not unlike any freshman would do, but I think this year she really stepped up. We’re really happy for her and hopefully she continues to grow next year and the year after that.’’
One of Stewart’s main goals this season was consistency. How about this for consistency? She scored in double figures over the last 31 games (19.9), a career-high.
But did she believe that she reached all of her goals this season?
“I think that I definitely reached all of them,’’ said Stewart, who has scored 91 points in four career games at the Final Four (22.8). “Winning the national championship really tied the knot.’’
Stewart closed by averaging 18.0 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.7 blocks in 34.0 minutes during the NCAA tournament. She had 18 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks against Stanford in the national semifinals. She then had 21 points, nine rebounds, four assists and two blocks against Notre Dame in the tournament final.
“Stewie came into this program with a lot of expectations and she’s exceeded them, for sure,’’ senior Stefanie Dolson said. “And I know now in the next two years will bypass them and just kind of show everyone what kind of player she truly is.’’
With two incredibly successful seasons on her resume, the question is what does Stewart plan to do for an encore next season?
“Win another (national championship),’’ Stewart said.
That’s just the way she is.
“I win two, I want to win three,’’ Stewart said. “If I win three, I want to win four. I think that I’m coming to Connecticut … I’m here to reach my fullest potential, become as good of a player as I can be and win national championships. That’s it.’’