It may not be possible for UConn women's basketball alum Stewart to have a better year than 2018

Published on Wednesday, 2 January 2019 22:06
Written by Carl Adamec

Journal Inquirer

STORRS - At 9:33 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, Breanna Stewart tweeted “Thank you 2018” to her 68,157 followers,

The former UConn star had to be sorry to see the calendar change.

In a breakout year that put her among the world’s elite, Stewart won her first WNBA championship and Most Valuable Player award with the Seattle Storm, was the WNBA Finals MVP, and captured her second FIBA World Cup gold medal and while being named the tourney MVP. She became the 11th player to win NCAA and WNBA titles along with Olympic and World Cup gold medals. She was USA Basketball’s Female Athlete of the Year.

So what’s next and what’s left for the 24-year-old North Syracuse, New York, native to do? Her coach for four national championships at UConn and gold medals at the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics with Team USA had some thoughts.

“If Stewie retired today she would go down as one of the greatest basketball players in the history of college/pro women’s basketball,” Geno Auriemma said. “Where does she go from here? That’s up to Stewie. If Stewie wants to rest on her laurels and just go, ‘You know what? I’m pretty good and I’m pretty famous and I’ve accomplished a lot,’ and I just can’t ever see that happening. But knowing Stewie, there’s probably still the same motivation she had when she came to college.”

When Stewart committed to UConn, she told Auriemma that she wanted to win four national championships. Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, and Morgan Tuck are the only players in NCAA history to do it.

Last summer, Stewart and fellow former UConn standout Sue Bird sparked the Storm to their first WNBA title since 2010 following one-and-done losses in their previous two playoff appearances. Stewart became the fourth former Husky to win the MVP, following Diana Taurasi (2009), Tina Charles (2012), and Maya Moore (2014).

“She’s how old, 24?” Auriemma said. “And her being 24, what’s the thing I always tell our young players here? Until they start putting age restrictions on how great you can be, then it’s available to anyone. For her to be able to do it at such a young age speaks more to not just her talent level but her maturity as a player.

“What’s next for her? ‘I want to win a whole bunch of WNBA championships and I want to be the best player on the Olympic team, which I haven’t been yet.’ There are a lot of things that she’s saying, ‘This is next for me.’ Off the court, that’s up to Stewie how far she wants to stretch herself. She did a little bit this year with her personal story, but she’ll have opportunities going forward to be more than just a basketball player and I hope she takes advantage of them.”

Help wanted

Batouly Camara has not seen game action since Nov. 24, She injured her right knee (sprained MCL) in practice two days later.

But the redshirt junior is back practicing for the top-ranked Huskies (11-0). The 6-foot-2 forward’s size and strength could be helpful against No. 8 Baylor’s front line that includes 6-7 All-American Kalani Brown and 6-4 Lauren Cox. The teams meet at the Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas, on Thursday.

“She has been able to get through practices more and more as we have gotten along here, and I think she can help in a game like this,” Auriemma said. “We are going to need her to play as physical as she plays and play defense and rebound the way I know she can. I don’t know how much she can help us offensively, but I definitely think she provides something in a game like this that is going to be real key.”

UConn could also use a contribution from Olivia Nelson-Ododa. After playing well during the Huskies’ trip to Notre Dame and St. Louis, the freshman had no points and no rebounds in just six minutes on the journey to Oklahoma and to California before the holiday break.

“Unless something happens between now and when we get there, Olivia is still the only one that is 6-foot-5,” Auriemma said. “So we have to figure out a way to take advantage of that as best as we can. It will be a real good test for her. It kind of reminds me of when Stefanie Dolson played against Brittney Griner in the second game of her career. It was a real good test. She got an F-minus, but it was a real good test.”

Posted in The Bristol Press, UConn on Wednesday, 2 January 2019 22:06. Updated: Wednesday, 2 January 2019 22:09.