Breanna Stewart Tries For Third USA Basketball Roster
Orlando, Fla. • June 2, 2011
A two-time USA Basketball gold medalist and current finalist for the 2011 USA Women’s U19 World Championship Team, Breanna Stewart (Cicero-North Syracuse H.S./North Syracuse, N.Y.) rarely is called by her first name on the court – at least when she is wearing a USA jersey.
That’s because the 6’4” forward/center instead goes by the nickname of “6-10,” a moniker she earned due to a 6’10” wingspan that was discovered after she was named to the 2009 USA Women’s U16 National Team two years ago.
“Usually in high school they just call me Bre,” Stewart said. “I didn’t really tell anyone I play basketball with that they called me ‘6-10.’ When I see some of my USA teammates at AAU events, though, they will call me 6-10, so some of my AAU teammates call me that.”
Stewart averaged 9.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks in 19.0 minutes per game at the 2009 FIBA Americas Championship, helping the USA earn a 5-0 record, a gold medal and a qualifying berth into the 2010 FIBA U17 World Championship.
There was a time in 2009, however, when she was thinking about not trying out.
“At first I wasn’t even planning on coming, because my dad didn’t want me to miss school, but thankfully I did,” Stewart remembered. “I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew it was going to be hard. I think I was just trying to give my best effort. That’s how I play.”
A year later, Stewart earned her second roster spot and gold medal with the USA at the inaugural 2010 FIBA U17 World Championship in France. She averaged 12.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.
“I enjoy doing this, and when I think of summer I think of USA Basketball,” Stewart said. “I know I am going to go try out again and that I get to hang out with the players I already know and meet new people, and hopefully make the team. It’s also been a travel opportunity for me. I haven’t really traveled anywhere outside of the USA, besides Canada.”
Summer came around in 2011 and Stewart made her third trip to USA Basketball trials, this time competing against girls several years older than her, some with a year of college under their belts. No matter, Stewart once again impressed the USA Basketball selection committee and was named as a finalist for the 2011 USA U19 World Championship Team on May 25, 2011.
“When they called names and announced finalists, I was nervous,” Stewart said. “I think that’s always going to make you nervous when they announce names like that, but I’m familiar with playing with these people and I’m comfortable playing against them, so that didn’t really make me nervous.”
That announcement on May 25 was just the first step, however, as the team still needs to be reduced from the current roster of 15 finalists to the official 12-member 2011 USA U19 World Championship Team. The roster announcement is expect to come on June 5, following four days of training and the USA’s exhibition game against Brazil at 12:30 p.m. (EDT) on June 5, which will be broadcast live on ESPN3.com and replayed on ESPNU on June 6 (2:30 a.m. EDT and 1:00 p.m. EDT).
“I know that they still have to cut three more players,” Stewart said. “Seeing how I can breathe easier here in Florida, I’m making sure that I run hard and don’t take plays off. I could run in Colorado, I just didn’t have as much wind. I’m trying to give my best effort and to do what I do best – not to get away from that.”
Three years after her first USA Basketball experience, Stewart has no trouble easily identifying how her game has grown.
“I think my confidence has increased, and my game offensively has gotten better – and my defense,” Stewart said. “With the U16 team, I was definitely more of a defensive player, and my defense was better than my offense. I think they are coming to be on the same level.”
She also is quick to identify what she is currently focused on improving.
“Rebounding – I could be a better rebounder right now, and my shots – finishing plays,” Stewart said.
Of course, Stewart also plays basketball at her high school, Cicero-North Syracuse, where she started playing varsity as an 8th grader. This past season in 2010-11, she averaged 24.3 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.8 steals and 4.2 blocks per game to help her team to a 22-3 record and a New York Class 2A Public Schools state title.
“We won the public school state championship, but we lost in the federation championship to Murray Burgtraum,” Stewart said. “We could have had one more game after that, so I would like to get back to that. Sometimes I won’t be playing how I should be playing – how I would be playing here – and I just have to keep myself playing at the highest level, because my teammates will follow that.”
With one more year of high school in 2011-12, Stewart already has verbally committed to attend the University of Connecticut in 2012-13.
“I verballed there because of my relationship with the players and the coaching staff and also because of Coach Auriemma,” Stewart said. “Many players have gone through there, and he’s helped them reach their full potential. I would like him to make me the best I can be.”
Stewart is getting a taste of her future at the University of Connecticut under USA U19 and University of Hartford head coach Jennifer Rizzotti, who was a point guard under Geno Auriemma.
“It’s great to practice under college coaches,” Stewart said. “My high school coach back home does a great job, but he’s not a college coach. Playing for college coaches, they put us through a college practice. That will help get me ready for UConn and my senior year of high school.”
With all of her athletic accomplishments, Stewart is a good student who is a member of her school’s honor roll, who had some advice for athletes looking to balance school and sport.
“Definitely trying to get as much done as you possibly can as early as you can is really important,” Stewart said. “I tried to get some of my work done to come here, because I’m still missing school. Make sure you make time for schoolwork.”
Whether she makes the team or not, Stewart is proof that you can excel on the court and in the classroom.