Breanna Stewart has star power for UConn
by Kelly Whiteside, USA TODAY Sports
NEW ORLEANS – Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma likes to joke that God played a huge trick on everyone in college basketball when he created Breanna Stewart.
When the 6-4 freshman forward walks on the court for Tuesday’s national championship game against Louisville, will people do a double take? “This is the best athlete in college basketball, by far? Really? That’s got to be an April Fool’s joke,” Auriemma said.
With a gym rat pallor honed by countless hours at the YMCA and biceps and triceps nowhere to be found, Stewart is an unlikely looking star. Until she gets her hands on the ball. The kid from Syracuse, N.Y., can hit jumpers from any zip code, block shots when it’s least expected and run the floor like a guard. Against Notre Dame in Sunday’s semifinal, she scored a career-high 29 points, had four blocks and five rebounds.
“A lot of people say I’m skinny,” said Stewart who is skinny. When she went into Auriemma’s office wearing a sleeveless jersey one day, her coach cracked, “Put a shirt on. Don’t show those muscles.”
Louisville coach Jeff Walz isn’t surprised that Stewart, the 2012 national high school player of the year, has lit up the NCAA Tournament. Last year at the London Olympics, Walz sat next to Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim at the gold-medal game. “(Boeheim) was like, ‘Wow, you know, there’s this kid that plays open gym with our women at Syracuse, she’s going to UConn, she’s one of the best players I’ve ever seen,’” Walz recalled Monday.
“I’m like, yeah, I know,” he said, bemoaning facing Stewart the next three years.
Stewart honed her game playing hoops with her father, Brian. (She said he’s 5-11 and mom is about 5-8.) “He was one of those YMCA junkie guys,” Stewart said. “This is the first year we haven’t watched (the NCAA Tournament) together. He started watching it with my mom,” … [For more on Freshman Breanna Stewart has star power for UConn, click here.]