Breanna Stewart reflects on Pan Am experience
Stewart still had a season left of HIGH SCHOOL basketball and yet she would be a member of a team which included four players who would be taken in April's WNBA draft and that didn't include Avery Whaley, who made it onto the roster of the Phoenix Mercury as an undrafted rookie free agent.
Perhaps the only thing more impressive than Stewart being good and mature enough to be considered for a spot on a team of veteran college players was that Stewart was unquestionably the team's best player. Not only did she lead the U.S. in both scoring and rebounding but her scoring average of 15.3 points was the fifth highest total in the tournament and her average of 11.3 rebounds trailed only the Atlanta Dream's Erika de Souza among tournament competitors.She was the tourney leader in blocked shots and free-throw percentage while ranking third in field-goal accuracy.
Probably just as impressive as her gaudy numbers was the way that Stewart fit in with her older teammates. If ever there was a time when jealousy could rear its ugly head, having a teen still yet to play a game in her senior year of high school playing alongside with players from NCAA tournament programs like Rutgers and Gonzaga and with two of the most prolific scorers in the collegiate game in Eastern Michigan's Tavelyn James and Kevi Luper of Oral Roberts.
"It didn't hurt that I had a lot of USA Basketball experience before but being able to play with and against college and professional players was a great experience for me," Stewart said. "It showed how much faster you have to be and quicker with your decisions on the court and I think that just helped motivate me to get better and be quicker. The Pan American experience was great, staying in the athlete's village with not only just basketball but all these other sports and so many other countries, it was something I will always remember."
So will Carol Callan, USA Basketball Women's National Team Director. It was Callan who came up with the idea of having Stewart be on the Pan Am team since the timing of the event would prevent many colleges from releasing their top players and the U.S. would not have access to pro players either.
"We were trying to figure out how to put that team together because it was during preseason for colleges, it was during overseas time for pros and we were really scratching our heads on what we were going to do," Callan said. "We were kind of thinking that let's put an interesting, almost eclectic group together. Last summer before we had it exactly figured out, I talked to her and said 'hey, would you be interested' knowing that she was still in high school, she is a good student, her school has been very flexible with her schedule and I think they realize they realize her potential so she was kind of our firs draft choice a little bit.
"It was one of those that as her parents now your daughter is moving outside of her peers and they were cool about it. She just simply rose to another level not only with our own team but even Brazil had their Olympic team down there, we had two days of practice before we had to go down there. We stumbled the first couple of games but clearly Breanna belonged."