Breanna Stewart — all she does is win, win, win, no matter what. WNBA regular season MVP, WNBA Finals MVP, USA Basketball FIBA World Cup MVP, Euroleague MVP — and the list goes on.
The already two-time WNBA Champion hails from Syracuse New York. There, she took in Syracuse University games when she was young. And in a sweet, full-circle moment, later — once she’d reached her full 6’4″ height, 7″ wingspan, and, more importantly, found her strength on the court — defeated Syracuse in her final UConn collegiate game.
Reflecting on Breanna’s level of play already in college, ESPN commentator Doris Burke put it best. “There are two or three moments in the course of every game that Breanna makes a play that no other player in the country could make. She’s pretty unique.”
So today, we’re going to take a look at the Seattle Storm Forward who boasts one of the most astounding resumes in WNBA history, after only four years of a pro career. We’ll share Breanna Stewart’s basketball evolution. Taking a look at how she developed her extraordinary skill set, and broke free from the block, inspiring the next generation of bigs to think differently.
As Sue Bird says, “Her versatility and what she can do. There’s no one like that. It’s really unlike any other player. Right now basketball is at a time where everyone wants to be positionless. And I think Stewie will go down as one of the first to truly be positionless.”
We’ll also share what Breanna’s stats and highlight videos reveal about her go-to moves. And we’ll break down her strengths and weaknesses. Plus, find out what could be next (sneak preview: our bet is on more rings). So let’s get after it!
Breanna Stewart credits her adoptive dad, Brian Stewart, with getting her into basketball. (Thank you Brian!)
When Breanna was around six years old, Brian wanted to make sure she was active and doing something. So Breanna started by testing out soccer for a self-alleged “hot second.” She went to one soccer camp, before moving on to play a little bit of softball and volleyball, and overall nothing went well. “The hand-eye coordination came later.” she reminisced on the Just Women’s Sports podcast.
But one thing about her initial sports foray lasts today: Brian is still her biggest supporter and biggest critic.
Luckily, her sports sampler led her to basketball. And from then on there was no looking back. By fifth grade, Stewie had already shot up into a lanky 6’2″ tall frame. And because she had always been tall for her age, coaches often wanted her inside as a rebounder. While she had the heart, she didn’t have the skills to be effective in the paint at the time. But she was committed to improving her game.
Brian, always looking out for her development, recommended she dribble a basketball around the block. At first, Stewie questioned him, saying she’d never seen anyone else do that. They repeated the argument the following day. And so on. Until finally she did it just to please him. The whole time she couldn’t stop thinking about how the neighbors were looking at her, and how stupid the whole thing was.
But little by little it grew on her. And eventually, it became her thing. Breanna dribbled around the block consistently until she graduated. This simple exercise improved her ball handling to the point she routinely dribbled behind her back or between her legs. And the best part was that she could clearly see the amount improvement.
In 5th grade she couldn’t dribble between her legs. But by the time she was a high school senior, she could dribble between her legs all the way around the block. It helped her make the connection early on, that when you work hard, you get rewarded, and see results. And one thing was certain: she wanted more results.
The summer after seventh grade, Cicero-North High School varsity coach Eric Smith invited Breanna to join his players at a basketball camp at nearby Siena College. Many parents and players wondered why she — someone so young — was there, but she quickly delivered.
In one of the first games she came out of nowhere to block the shot of a much older player, sending the ball beyond the three-point line to another opponent. Breanna blocked the other opponent’s attempt, too. And stole the ball, dribbling toward her basket. Everyone was stunned. Then, Breanna missed the layup.
This type of performance was typical for her at the time. And it was clear she had work to do on the offensive end of the court. By the winter, she had improved enough to make the varsity team as an 8th grader, however. And she even started receiving interest from local colleges.
Upon joining her high school team, she was nicknamed “Bean” by her teammates, and “6–10” because of her wingspan. At the time, she was more of a defensive player, who could block shots and rebound. She started most games, and averaged nine points, nearly nine rebounds ,and seven blocks per game. The rest of her skillset was still a work in progress.
A trip Breanna made to New York City for a tournament that year caught the eye of Mike Flynn, director of the AAU team the Philadelphia Belles. He watched her play before heading to the scorer’s table to check her stats. “I thought to myself, If she’s a junior, she’s good. If she’s a sophomore, she’s great. If she’s a freshman, she’s ridiculous.”
When told she was a freshman, he recalled the first time he saw Kevin Garnett as a high schooler in Chicago: tall and long with great rebounding and passing skills.
The following year — Breanna’s freshman year — she almost doubled her point production, scoring 17 points per game. While her team had a 21–3 record, making it to the regional final game. Furthermore, by the time she hit her sophomore year, she upped her scoring average to 22 points per game. Though her team’s record of 18-4 was similar to the prior year.
Breanna was getting most of her points in the paint, and using her height to get her shots off. But again, Brian knew how critical it was for her to keep developing her skills. He pushed her to not just be a run to the block type of player. So throughout her junior and senior years of high school she developed her offensive game. Working on playmaking, and getting very comfortable around the foul line and two-point ducks area — sort of a Tim Duncan playbook.
As a junior, Breanna’s production increase once more: she averaged 24 points and 15 rebounds for the season. Once she was a threat from all over the floor, she helped lead her team to the state AA public school title. Securing a 22–3 record for the year.
By her senior year she was putting on a show, including her first in-game dunk against Baldwinsville. As an electric, baseline-to-baseline playmaker, she led her team to a 19-3 record, the Section 3 Class AA championship, and a spot in the Class AA state tournament semifinals.
All the while, averaging 25.7 points, 13.1 rebounds, 3.5 blocks, 3.2 assists and 3.2 steals entering the postseason final four. Plus, she earned the title of New York’s Section 3 career leader for points scored (2,000-plus). It was official: Breanna Stewart had arrived.
The versatile hooper was rated as the nation’s No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2012 in the HoopGurlz ESPNU 100. Breanna was also selected as a member of the 2012 McDonald’s All-American team; earned the 2012 Women’s Basketball Coaches Association High School Coaches’ All-America Team honors; and was named the 2012 Naismith High School Girls’ Player of the Year. Furthermore, she received the Gatorade National Girls Basketball Player of the Year award.
The University of Connecticut came on Breanna’s radar early because it was so close to her home. As a sophomore in high school, she visited the campus for the first time. UConn welcomed her for a recruiting trip, which also happened to be on college game day (in fact, the only one they’ve ever had for the women’s team!).
As Breanna recalls, she saw Maya Moore playing that day. And she must have seen something she liked, because she soon committed. Passing up others in the consideration set including: UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke University, University of Maryland, and Penn State. While her decision was an easy one, the year to follow was not.
Breanna has referred to her freshman year as “by far the worst year.” Though, she kicked off in strong form, scoring at least 20 points in three of her first four games. And scoring a total of 169 points in her first ten games – more than any other Connecticut Husky freshman.
However, her output slowed, and her scoring average dropped below ten points for her last eighteen regular season games. Meanwhile, the team lost four times in total, three of the loses from falling to Notre Dame. So there was immediate, intense pressure, because everyone was saying, well, “maybe UConn’s lost a step.”
Add onto that, that Breanna was struggling with the practice aspect of her game. Head Coach Geno Auriemma needed players trying to do things his way. But Breanna was stubborn. And hadn’t figured out that there was more to do – that she was capable of giving more. So they butted heads for a while.
Eventually, she learned that as a player, she was always going to lose in the end. So she started delivering more, and consistently. Ultimately, she realized that Geno expected the absolute best out of her — it was the first time she had a coach like that. Breanna reflected, “You have to be broken down to be built back up.” And in the end, the way he helped her, made going to UConn the best decision of her life.
In March of her freshman year, she began early morning sessions with Chris Daily, Associate Head Coach, to concentrate on shooting and post moves. She came back strong in the Big East tournament, with a total of 51 points, matching the number scored by Diana Taurasi in her tournament debut.
Her strong performance continued in the NCAA tournament. She finally notched a W against Notre Dame. Scoring a career-high 29 points to go with four blocks. Leading the Huskies back to the national championship game with an 83-65 win over the Fighting Irish.
“Given the stage, and what was at stake I don’t know that I’ve seen any bigger performance,” Geno said. “I know there’s been NCAA tournament games that we’ve had certain individuals play great, but I don’t remember a player having a better game in this environment.
Breanna went on to score 105 points in the last five games, earning her the award of the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. Cementing her spot as the first freshman to win the award since 1987. And her team took home the Championship title.
Breanna continued her stellar play her sophomore year, starting in every game. She led the team with 19.4 points and 2.8 blocks per game. And was second on the team with 8.1 rebounds per contest, and fourth at 49.7 percent shooting.
As her confidence grew, she began demanding the ball more. Her 291 made field goals earned her the third-highest single-season total in UConn history.
By the end of her sophomore year, she was named the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year, an honor she won the following two seasons as well. Additionally, she was named AP Player of the Year.
After going undefeated her first two seasons, during her junior year, the team lost to Stanford. Which broke their winning streak in year three. Which brought a lot of pressure. “Even when you’ve already won two years in a row, if you don’t win the third, none of it matters,” she recapped.
Though, Breanna tackled the mental aspect of the intimidating season and delivered. She elevated nearly every aspect of her game during UConn’s nine-game run through the postseason. She averaged 18.1 points on 53.3 percent shooting. Plus had a clutch 10.7 rebounds, and made 42.1 percent (8–19) of her attempts from beyond the three.
Which propelled her to 11th place on UConn’s all-time scoring list with 1,960 career points. And she took fifth place on UConn’s all-time blocked shots list with 288 career rejections.
Breanna earned American Athletic Conference Player of the Year honors for the second straight year in 2014–15. Marking the fifth time a Husky was selected as the Conference Player of the Year multiple times.
In her final season at UConn, Breanna posted career highs in rebounds per game (8.7), assists per game (4.0), and blocks (126). Meanwhile she shot 57.9 percent from the floor. As she led UConn to yet another National Championship.
Yes, you counted that right: Breanna Stewart won four National Championships in her college career. She was part of the first four-time National Championship class in NCAA history. And also became the first player to be named the Final Four Most Outstanding Player four times.
As a result, her individual-honors award shelf ranneth over yet again: she won her third straight Naismith College Player of the Year award, Wade Trophy, Associated Press Women’s College Basketball Player of the Year award, and USBWA Women’s National Player of the Year award. She was the first-ever unanimous pick for AP Player of the Year and the first-ever three-time AP Player of the Year.
In short, her college career was insane. Breanna won 151 games and lost 5! She is the first NCAA basketball player ever to tally 300 assists and block 300 shots. Stewie was one of only six Huskies with at least 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. And she concluded her college career second on UConn’s all-time scoring list at 2,676 career points, fourth with 1,179 career rebounds, and first in blocks (414). But one thing was certain, she wasn’t done playing basketball.
Breanna remembers watching the 2008 Olympics at her grandma’s house when she was 14. Today, she credits The Games with sparking her interest in getting there some day. As they say you have to see it, to dream it! And it soon became her biggest goal to win a gold medal at the Olympics.
When Breanna got her first invitation to go to TEAM USA U16 try outs, remarkably her parents said she couldn’t go. Because school was too important to miss. It took her AAU coach, Mike Flynn, (thank goodness for him!) saying she needed to be there, to make it happen.
Breanna – though slightly intimidated as the youngest potential member of the team – made the team. And the rest of her USA career is history – breaking!
Despite being the youngest team player, Breanna earned a starting role for all five games. Her impact was immediate, and she scored just under ten points per game. As well as tied Elizabeth Williams for the team lead in blocks. Her team won the gold medal in the First FIBA Americas U16 Championship for Women in Mexico City. Securing an automatic bid to the 2010 FIBA U17 World Championship in Toulouse, France.
After that, Breanna kept working her way up through USA Teams. Again, she found herself as one of the youngest players on the U19 team. Yet led the team in points, rebounds, and blocks. And as a critical part of the team that won a gold medal at the international competition, she earned herself a position on the All-Tournament team.
Later, she was named to the Pan American team – only the second high school player from the US ever to win the honor. And on that team, despite playing with college age players, she earned a starting position for all games. And – as you’ve now come to expect – led the team in points, rebounds, and blocks.
Her consistent standout play easily made Breanna one of 33 finalists for the U.S. Women’s FIBA World Championship for Women Roster. There she found herself surrounded by older players, a scene which had now become familiar to her.
Also, she was the only collegiate player out of 32 professional women’s basketball players to be selected by the USA Basketball Women’s National Team Player Selection Committee. Which put her on the path to turn her Olympic dreams into a reality. Of course, Breanna made the final roster of 12 players. The team went on to win the gold medal in 2014 at the FIBA World Championship for Women in Turkey.
After that, she was named to the 2016 USA Olympic Women’s Basketball Team for the 2016 Rio Olympics. Rendering her speechless, when she received the call from Carol Callan. Of course, she won her first Olympic gold medal that year with the USA women’s senior basketball team. Delivering the moment she’d been working towards, constantly pushing herself to keep up with new levels of older competition, since that day in her grandma’s house.
In addition to her USA basketball tour overseas, Breanna continues to go overseas during the WNBA off-season from October through May. Because the real money in women’s basketball to be made is still overseas. And with low rookie deals, the large offers are simply too tempting to ignore.
Plus, she views the ability to get in games year-round as critical to her continued development. And sees the overseas leagues as an opportunity to continue to prove herself in new territories. When you want to win, you play where ever you can play!
Breanna signed with Shanghai Baoshan Dahua of the WCBA for the 2016–17 Chinese season. And re-signed with them the following year. Playing in China is different from playing other places abroad though, because you can only have one foreigner on each team. So she found herself surrounded by 11 Chinese players and a translator, and that was it. Yet another obstacle for the winner to overcome.
Following China, starting in 2018, she spent two years’ off-seasons in Russia with Dynamo Kursk of the Russian Premier League. There, she was named MVP of the EuroLeague Women regular season.
Later, in February 2020, Breanna signed with UMMC Ekaterinburg for the remainder of the 2019-2020 European season. There, unfortunately she tested positive for Covid19. Still, she plans to head overseas every year for the foreseeable future to maximize her earning potential.
Two weeks after winning the NCAA championship, Breanna was in for a whirlwind. The 2016 WNBA draft was held, and she was taken No. 1 overall by the Seattle Storm.
Interestingly “it humbles you real quick” was the theme of Breanna’s WNBA debut. In fact, losing records her first two years in Seattle made for an uncomfortable welcome for her.
Breanna’s first game was in LA against the Sparks, and she scored 23 points. But the end result didn’t go the way she wanted: Seattle got smoked by 20. It wasn’t just the on-court result that punished her, but also off the court she was in for a rude awakening. Rather than sulking over the loss, her teammates had already moved on and were talking about where they were going to eat. She quickly learned that as a professional, there’s always another game to focus on.
Despite her team’s record, her individual play was a bright spot her rookie season. Breanna averaged 18.3 points per game, 9.3 rebounds per game, and 1.8 blocks per game by the end of the 2016 season. She swept the Rookie of the Month awards for the whole season, and was the WNBA nearly-unanimous Rookie of the Year.
In 2017, Breanna continued to flourish. She was voted into the 2017 WNBA All-Star Game for the first time. And she finished the season with a career-high of 19.9 points per game.
Meanwhile, the Storm finished with the number 8 seed in the league. But they were eliminated by the Phoenix Mercury in the first round of playoffs.
By the time 2018 came around, Breanna knew she wanted to have an MVP-like season. She also realized that whatever she was doing previously just wasn’t good enough: it wasn’t getting her the MVP or her team the win.
“Now I’m all in and just having the mindset that that year I was going to get better.” Breanna recalled. She looked into ways to take care of her body better, and did whatever it took. She copied Sue Bird’s training regime for body and health, including yoga, pilates, and better letting her body recover. And, importantly, put in tons of extra time working out with Sue Bird and Jewell Loyd over the summer.
Seattle lost their first game, and almost lost their minds. Then, the pieces started to come together, and Stewie elevated her play to superstar level. Breanna had five 30-point games or more, and broke Lauren Jackson’s record for points scored in 2018. She was ranked second in the league in scoring, and averaged new career-highs in scoring, steals, field goal percentage and three-point percentage.
“Breaking records is great, but if you’re not winning then it doesn’t mean a lot” says Breanna. And Breanna certainly meant business in 2018. She won the MVP award. And her team won the 2018 Championship, their first championship in 8 years.
The team’s 26–8 record gave them the number 1 seed in the league, and a double-bye to the semi-finals. In the Finals, the Storm defeated the Washington Mystics in a three-game sweep. Breanna won Finals MVP, too. Becoming the sixth player in league history to win both league MVP and Finals MVP in the same year.
Unfortunately 2019 would be a WNBA season unlike any other for Breanna, as she suffered her first major injury while playing abroad that offseason. It happened in April, as she was playing for the Russian club Dynamo Kursk in the 2019 EuroLeague Women final. 20 seconds before half-time, as she was on her way up to shoot, she came crashing down.
She immediately knew something had happened, because she could only feel her heel and nothing else in her foot. As she was on the ground, she thought maybe she’d ruptured her Achilles. But she was hoping for a broken ankle instead, for a shorter recovery process. Of course, it was the Achilles.
Rehab was a rollercoaster. Some days she wasn’t sure she could do it, or ever get back to the level she was playing at before. For example, she couldn’t walk again until July. And it was her right foot, so she couldn’t drive the entire time she recovered!
Meanwhile, because the WNBA lacked any kind of inactive list, the Storm suspended her in order to free up a roster spot. Shortly thereafter, the league made her a paid ambassador for the 2019 season. Making her the first active player to fill such a role. Interestingly, Breanna earned slightly more in that role than she would have as a player.
By July 2020, Breanna was back! She rejoined her teammates at the IMG Academy for training. And spoiler alert: again won a title with the Storm in 2020 and was named the 2020 WNBA Finals MVP.
She put on quite a show in Game 1, including 37 points and 15 rebounds. Making her the first player ever with a 35-point, 15-rebound game in the Finals. OK we really undersold that, she brought the heat! Coming up big during a clutch time. And went on to finish the series by averaging 28.3 points and 7.3 rebounds, while shooting at an astounding level: 62.8 percent from the field, and 65 percent from the three.
That year Sports Illustrated named her one of their Sportspeople of the Year for her activism off the court. “From returning from a devastating injury, to leading the Storm to a fourth title and earning Finals MVP honors, to showing unwavering support of Black Lives Matter, Stewart rose to the occasion this year, in so many ways.” penned Megan Rapinoe.
Based on her career so far – from gangly middle schooler catching and shooting above everyone’s heads in the post, to punishing cross overs, unstoppable back downs, and dangerous threes – it’s clear we’re in for quite the ride in the years to come. Breanna, as one of the best to ever step on the court, will undoubtedly continue to put on a show, breaking new records every year. The only question is how high will she go?
Just in case you missed it as we went through her basketball evolution, Breanna has broken a crazy amount of records. Here are some of her most amazing stats:
Breanna is one of the most entertaining WNBA players to watch. Her footwork in the paint is unrivaled. And her bag of finishing skills runs deep. Here are a few fun Breanna Stewart highlight videos.
In this video, the unanimous WNBA Finals MVP puts on a show in the 2020 Finals. Beginning with a one dribble pull up two that looks too easy. Another thing about Breanna is that she always gets out and runs the floor. This keeps the defense constantly on their toes, not giving them a single moment to recover. And allows Sue to hit her with the full-court pass for the easy bucket. Also take note of her jumper, which is flat out beautiful. There’s no wasted energy there. Plus, the way she can finish with her left and right.
Here Breanna shows off her solid D and solid offense. She finishes with the left and right, through contact. And gets a remarkable Brittney Griner block.
Of course, we had to take a look at her four Championship years. At the time, Breanna was beginning to develop her range. Here Breanna knocks down a couple of threes. Making shots like that is so critical, because it forces the defense to come out and play her, opening up the court for everyone else. She also delivers beautifully on an underhanded put back, and a one-handed put back.
Here Breanna backs the defense down and seals the deal with a hook shot. She’s deadly with her one dribble pull ups, extending the shot off over her head – making it unblockable. And, she continues to be great at running the floor for the feeder pass and easy bucket.
There’s nothing Stewie can’t do on the basketball court. She blends the size and strength of a dominant post player with the skill, coordination, and speed of an elite wing.
As the The Guardian reports, “When she’s not using her length and physicality to dine out in the paint, you will find her on the perimeter, calmly draining three-pointers or creating opportunities off the dribble for herself and her teammates. Geno Auriemma, who coached Stewart during her record-breaking collegiate career at the University of Connecticut, once called her ‘the first Durantesque player in the women’s game’. There’s a special joy to be found in watching her go about her work.” So let’s watch her work by checking out a few of her go-to moves.
Stewie’s a hustler! She’s the rare big who sprints up and down the court every single time. This allows her to beat the defense and get an easy bucket, with a nice full-court pass from Sue Bird to Breanna’s arm closest to the basket.
Stewie eats lunch at the foul line. She’s always looking to get to the corners, or will pull up right in the middle of it. She’s even pulled this shot off over two defenders in her face. Her speed allows her to beat the defender to the spot, and her height allows her to extend the shot out of their reach.
Breanna does a great job of feeling out where her defender is using her back. Once she’s got the defender on her back, she uses her sheer physicality to get closer to the bucket, working them backwards step by step. Once she’s taken the defender for the ride, she spins and knocks down the jumper. Keeping the shot above her head.
Breanna hits the majority of her threes from the top of the key, slightly to the left side. This is because Sue tends to bring the ball up on the right. When the defense leaves Breanna a little space because they’re hedging for the drive, she makes them pay.
The threat of her three is particularly effective because it spreads the floor even more for the rest of her team. That’s why folks like Allie Quigley have made their lunch money on it. That’s right we just compared a Forward and a Shooting Guard – that’s how crazy versatile Breanna’s skill set is.
Breanna uses a simple crossover or even eurostep to throw the defender off. Once she blows by them, she keeps the ball protected and close to her body. Then, most often finishes on the left side of the basket with a layup or floater. And she can do this through contact.
OK this one’s not a go-to move. But she is one of a few women in the league who can do it, so we’ve got to mention it. As the Seattle Times reports during an observed practice session, “With a basketball cupped in her hand, Breanna Stewart casually strolled along the baseline before taking two explosive steps and elevating for a dunk on the other side of the rim
‘She does that all time,’ Storm teammate Monica Wright said nonchalantly. ‘For women, it’s not normal. But for her, everybody knows she can do that. It’s nice to see though.'”
Breanna Stewart is trouble for defenses. Because she’s so versatile, there’s no obvious defensive pairing for her most of the time.
“For a girl that tall, she can do a lot with the basketball,” Kevin Durant told New York reporters. “She’s very skilled. She can shoot, she can pass, she can rebound, she can run, she can jump. So there’s something I haven’t seen — in the women’s game or otherwise — in a long time. I’m a big fan, a huge fan.”
Let’s check out a few of her strengths, that make her such a historic playmaker.
Look, this is the basics: you have to make buckets to be a threat. It’s so simple and yet so lethal. Breanna can knock down shots anywhere on the floor. Her shot charts reveal how evenly distributed both her shots and makes are. She can shoot close, midrange, and long shots all fine.
Actually, better than fine. At 53.7%, she has a career effective field goal percentage higher than point guards such as Sue Bird’s, Diana Taurasi’s, and higher than forwards such as Elena Delle Donne.
Breanna has an accurate perimeter shot that allows her to step out to the three-point line. And it works for her both because her length and form afford her plenty of time to load up and take aim. And because her size and skill inside force teams to sell out when she feints a pick-and-roll and floats out for a three.
This high level of shooting efficiency from range is still not the standard for a Forward. She’s setting the tone for the future of the league.
In fact, WNBA analyst Rebecca Lobo, one of the league’s founding players and a former UConn star center, believes post players are undergoing an evolution led by multi-dimensional players such as Breanna.
“Opportunities for post players (have changed); for there to be just a traditional two bigs on the floor isn’t really there as much as it was in the early days of the WNBA,” Rebecca said noting that many teams now favor a four-guard lineup that includes a versatile post.
“It will be interesting to see the ebb and the flow of the traditional post player vs. the kind of stretch 4 (big forward) who can shoot the three throughout the course of the next few years in the league.”
As SBNation writes, “She [makes} high-pressure low-post moves look like cone drills.” Breanna is great at using her back to feel where her defender is. And up front, she makes sure she has the best positioning for a path to the basket, planting her feet and using her long arms to call for the ball on the side she wants it. She’s able to swing towards the basket, or away from it, and still make the shot.
As a result her career two point field goal percentage is 52.7%. You can easily compare that to another versatile Forward, such as Maya Moore, who’s at 49.1% to understand just how remarkable Stewie is.
SBNation puts it best, “There’s no model for returning from one of the most debilitating injuries a basketball player can suffer, and averaging 19.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.7 steals, and 1.3 blocks per game, with a true-shooting percentage of 57.8 percent.”
The determination that the UConn program helped Stewie build, has impacted every aspect of her career that followed. After learning what truly hard work was, she’s embodied the ethos, and help herself accountable each step of the way. Despite a terrible injury, she put in the work to make it back – and win.
As Storm coach Gary Kloppenburg said, “Stewie is just one of those players, a generational player that comes through once in a while that can face adversity and even get stronger because of it. She missed that whole year and she came back as a better player in pretty much every category, on both sides of the ball.”
Breanna has seemingly mastered the mental side of the game as well. Which is something that’s a lot harder to teach. Just check out her Game 1 Finals performance (37 points, 15 rebounds), after A’ja Wilson was named season MVP. She’s able to channel her emotions into on-court productivity, which is hard to do.
“But one thing I’ve always noticed about Stewie is she has this quiet confidence, where she’ll just kind of keep it real all the time. She’s the one who will say what everyone is thinking, and she’ll do it with her patented shoulder shrug and head tilt. It’s so nonchalant—like the way she plays, where everything just seems to slow down for her on the court.” writes Megan Rapinoe.
Of course, there’s an opportunity for everyone to improve. Here are a few ways Breanna can keep taking her game to the next level.
Breanna’s height makes her a natural blocking threat. She ended her NCAA career with 400 blocks. And in the WNBA has a career average of 1.6 blocks per game – the same as Candace Parker. So it’s a little weird to call this a weakness, because she’s doing quite well. But Brittney Griner averages 2.9, so there’s room for Stewie to do more here.
Due to her natural body build, this will always be something Breanna works on. She’s learned how to battle harder, and how to use footwork to give her the advantage in the post. Plus, how to bring an aggressive mentality to the game.
“She is no longer easily disrupted mentally by the physicality of an opponent.” as Geno Auriemma said already back in her college days. But she’ll need to keep working hard, eating right, and channeling her aggressiveness to stay competitive in the paint. Because teams are going to come at her hungry down low to find any weakness they can exploit.
Breanna’s one-on-one offensive creation against elite defenders has an opportunity for improvement as well. For example in Game 1 of the 2020 Semi-Finals, Napheesa Collier blocked every shot Stewie attempted in the 4th quarter. Seattle’s offense is so talented and has such good spacing that Stewie’s iso game hasn’t really been put to the test yet. But in future years, when Seattle perhaps loses pieces like Sue Bird and Sami Whitcomb, Stewie’s isolation scoring will become more important.
While Breanna’s by no means a bad passer, she could get even better there, too. Especially out on the perimeter. She tends to broadcast her passes, relying on her length to get it off over the defender. Sometimes just an extra second or two to slow the game down, and look off in the other direction, is all it really takes to create the spacing for a better pass. Candace Parker’s career average for assists per game is still ahead of Stewie, meaning there’s room to grow.
Breanna is young in years, but old in terms of wins and experience at this point. Her next opportunity is to continue making all the players around her better. Lifting them up, pushing them vocally, and investing in their games.
Breanna would like to see her whole career play out in Seattle. One thing is for sure: Breanna is going to keep trying to be the best on the court and off. Today, she’s an activist, a survivor, an MVP — and an inspiration.
When Holly Rowe interviewed Breanna in 2018, and asked her, “Why are you so strong?” Breanna said, “Why not? People go through situations to test them and type of strength they have. People have gone through worse things than me. I don’t want to let the bad situations make it worse, I want to make the best out of it.”
And she certainly has. Having shared her story, she’s now playing with a weight lifted off her chest she didn’t know she had, and the results continue to be astounding. Asked by FiveThirtyEight after securing the 2020 WNBA Championship, if six championships were in reach, another standard that no one has yet met, she smiled and said: “Yeah, I want to win.”
With Breanna, it always comes back to winning. She’s set on getting back to the winning.
Up next, learn more about UConn players in the WNBA.
Written by Megan Mitzel, youth basketball coach, and Founder of Queen Ballers Club.
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Breanna Stewart’s Instagram is @BreannaStewart30. Follow her to enjoy her humble, yet determined spirit and matter-of-fact, quick and honest personality. Plus, see the ways she’s invested in grassroots basketball development, and her latest advocacy work.
For example, in 2017, she stood up for the LGBTQ community, and in October of 2018 she came forward as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, going on to launch a national campaign in partnership with RAINN to help other victims and their families.
Check out Stewie’s shop for some comfortable threads, including this fly Rings Hoodie, made with soft, mid weight fleece.
Breanna Stewart lost 5 games in college, and won 151 games, which included four straight national championships wins.
Yes Breanna Stewart can dunk. She has dunked in the McDonald’s All-American dunk contest.