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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Stewart enjoys her latest visit to New England

There are more than a few games worth circling on the Cicero-North Syracuse calendar but for UConn commit Breanna Stewart, it's hard to top playing a game just over the Connecticut border and at an event sponsored by the Basketball Hall of Fame.

The 6-foot-4 Stewart did her part with 22 points, 18 rebounds, four assists and seven blocks in less than three quarters of play in a 60-20 win over previously undefeated West Springfield.

Being so close to the UConn practice made her think about how things will be next year when she suits up for the Huskies.

"I try to be as prepared as I can because I know it is going to be a step up and I try to prepare myself as best as I can," Stewart said.

"I feel really good with Coach Auriemma and his staff and how he gets the best out of them. He's had so many players come from that program that have become high-profile players - Maya Moore, Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and I want to reach my full potential."

She certainly doesn't have the game of a typical 6-4 high school senior. She stepped out and hit a pair of 3-pointers, soared over the rim on a couple of her rebounds, was able to bring the ball up the court and has a game that has so many dimensions to it.

"She is going to be different from anything I think he's had," said Christ the King coach Bob Mackey, who coached former UConn All-Americans Sue Bird and Tina Charles. "He's never had that big forward who can do a lot. He's always had good guards. Swin Cash might yell at me on that one but that is OK. But it will be fun to watch."

It certainly was on Friday. The crowd rose out of their seats when Stewart got ahead of field in anticipation of her attempting a dunk. She did not. At least two of her blocked shots created audible gasps from the fans. Yet, for as talented as she is, she is not an attention craver.

"I think she is as humble as can be," Cicero-North Syracuse coach Eric Smith said. "You can't tell she is the best player until you see her play. She will converse with anybody, she will converse with the kids. When you get on the court, she is going to do anything. She is a smart kid so when she sees the triple team, she will find the open player.

"I think the best quote that anybody said is the Dr. Phillips coach at the Tournament of Champions and that her only fault is she plays too hard. She is diving on the floor, she is running into people, throwing her body anywhere. She is all over the place. Even though she is the best player in the country, she works harder than anybody in the country that puts her a step above everybody else."

The modest part of her personality showed itself when Stewart passed on having a ceremony at her school to sign her national letter of intent. She signed the letter at home, actually she signed it on the hood of her Honda CRV.

"I wasn't planning on doing anything but when I knew I had to fax it to UConn and Coach Auriemma, I wasn't ready to do fax it to them as soon as they needed because they needed it because they have a game that night so I had to sign it on the hood of my car and give it to my dad to fax it from work."

Auriemma loves Stewart's no-frills approach to things, there will not be any problems with a superstar's ego when she gets to UConn.

"She has been unbelievably great to work with in the whole recruiting process," Auriemma said. "The people in USA Basketball are amazed that a young kid can carry herself the way she does. They ask her to play in every single event that they have. Her mom and dad are down the earth. They are grounded people who aren't trying to live their lives through their daughter. It is just really refreshing to see where she comes from, once you do that you can really appreciate where she is right now.

"For a young kid, you say to yourself 'how did she learn so much at a young age.' It is hard to say because she didn't really grow up in an area where women's basketball is a huge hotbed of high school basketball. You just have this thing where she has, I think way kids with all the travel and all the teams they play on and all the stuff they are exposed to at a young age, it is kind of a throwback when you played in your neighborhood. You were a good player and kept it all in perspective. Maybe that is why she is so successful at a young age, against USA Basketball and against older kids, she doesn't take herself that seriously."

Stewart and the entire North-Cicero team will be at tomorrow's UConn/Villanova game and she will be at the Jan. 25 game at Syracuse.

Mackey's Christ the King team beat East Longmeadow (Mass.) 64-33 with sophomore Sierra Calhoun leading the Royals with 14 points. Calhoun, the sister of UConn commit Omar Calhoun, is on UConn's recruiting radar and I will have an entry on what Mackey had to say about his talented sophomore tomorrow.

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