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Breanna Stewart Rested and Ready to Rise

After a breakthrough rookie season, Stewart is poised to become on of the top players in the WNBA this year.

Two UConn stalwarts are teammates for the Storm, who kick off their season Saturday on ESPN.
Ian Bethune

Breanna Stewart played a lot of basketball in the four years leading up to the start of her WNBA career.

Before becoming the first of three Huskies taken with the first three picks in the 2016 WNBA Draft, Stewart maxed out the number of contests a college basketball player could play as a four-year starter for the four-time national champions, a total of 156 games.

She was also a mainstay for Team USA every summer since she was 14.

After the draft, Stewart was off to Rio for the 2016 Olympics, where she helped Team USA win the Gold Medal alongside her college head coach Geno Auriemma and four other former Huskies.

Though she should have been exhausted, Stewie put up a monster rookie campaign, averaging 18.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.8 blocks per game while hitting 45.7 percent of her shots from the field as she won Rookie of the Year honors.

The UConn legend was the sixth-leading scorer in the league, the second-best rebounder, and was also named to the All-WNBA Second Team.

Like most top-tier WNBA players, Stewart took advantage of the opportunity to keep earning and expand her cultural horizons by playing overseas. Unfortunately, her time there was cut short by a knee injury.

On the plus side, she finally got some time to rest.

“I think that having my overseas season be cut a little bit short was disappointing, but it was also a blessing in disguise,” Stewart said via conference call. “Because otherwise I wouldn't have had that time off to really rest my body, my mind, and recover in that way.”

That should terrify her competition.

The Storm finished 7th in the regular season standings last year, and then Stewie experienced a first as her team was eliminated from postseason play after a loss to the Atlanta Dream.

“I think that for us, our team, we haven't forgotten what it felt like to lose in Atlanta,” Stewart said. “Even though we had that great run to make the playoffs... we wanted to do more than to just get to the first game and lose. I think it's more fuel to the fire and more motivation for what we want to do this year.”

The Storm, who also have two other former UConn stars in Sue Bird and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, added veteran center Carolyn Swords to bolster their frontcourt this offseason. That should free Stewart up to be more of a playmaker in her second year.

“To be able to have that post who is able to defend the fives and be more of a banger, someone who is there to help clean up the rebounds, it's just going to make our style of play even better,” Stewart said.

“I think it's really hard to make up for size at this level,” she added. “That was one thing our team was lacking last year.”

It’s only a matter of time before the team blessed with Breanna Stewart is making waves in the postseason. It could be as soon as this year.

The WNBA season kicks off on Saturday when Stewart’s Storm will be in Los Angeles taking on the Sparks for a 5 p.m. ET tip-off. The game will be televised on ESPN.