In her first two seasons at UConn, 6-foot-4 forward Breanna Stewart has developed into the best player in women’s college basketball. Two national titles, two Final Four Most Outstanding Player awards and multiple national Player of the Year honors as a sophomore provide convincing evidence of that fact. Those accomplishments resulted in Stewart being given a chance to earn a spot on the United States’ senior women’s national team, which is preparing for the FIBA World Championships for Women that begins September 27 in Turkey.
Sunday, USA Basketball revealed the 13 remaining finalists for the team, which is coached by UConn head coach Geno Auriemma, and Stewart was among the players on that list. Twelve of those players will participate in the team’s final exhibition against the Czech Republic on Tuesday, with Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner due to join the team in Turkey on Wednesday.
With that being the case, one of the 12 participants in the team’s final exhibition will be cut.
“We’ve been trying to put everything together while using 15 players and that’s not ideal,” Auriemma said in the release. “We haven’t been able to put enough time into one unit and get some kind of rotation down, and that’s all right. We’ve been trying to give everybody a fair chance to make the team and show what they can do.
“But we are down to 12 for the game in Prague, and that will tell us a lot more about what this team is. Then obviously we’ll have a couple of practices when we get to Istanbul that will be big as well. Slowly but surely we’re getting to where the team is, but it’s not been easy.”
The Americans have won three of their four exhibitions thus far, with the lone defeat being a 76-72 loss to France Sunday. In the four games Stewart has averaged 6.5 points and 3.3 rebounds per game, playing 12.5 minutes per contest off the bench. Being on this team requires a change of roles for the lone collegian on the roster, as Stewart serves as a supplementary piece on a team loaded with professional stars.
When Stewart returns to Storrs she’ll be the leader for a team expected to win a third consecutive national title in spite of the graduation of key seniors Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley. The only question now is when she’ll be returning to campus: this week, or in early October once the World Championships have concluded.