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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

USA Basketball experiences breeds winning for UConn players

As if there needed to be a reminder of how talented this UConn team is, a pregame ceremony honoring the five Huskies who won gold medals with USA Basketball over the summer did the trick.

Breanna Stewart (who also was recognized for being the 2013 USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year), Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson played on the U.S. team which won the FIBA U19 World Championship while Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Bria Hartley were members of the team which captured the World University Games title. Add in the fact that Stefanie Dolson could easily have been on the WUG squad if she wasn't still recovering from the foot and ankle injuries which hampered her during UConn's run to a national championship and that Kiah Stokes also has played USA Basketball in the past and it is no wonder the Huskies are the consensus No. 1 team in the country.

"It does go hand in hand, the way the coaches teach us and the expectations they have for us here and it allows us to carry it over to teams we play for with USA Basketball," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "I feel like when we play there is a different with when we are doing certain things and we are talking and what is instilled in us at UConn is different to when we go to these USA events, these USA tryouts because we see the difference from what we are used to  and what other teams are used to.

"It was really special knowing that we have that many great players on our team at one time. There aren't a lot of team that have that. We are lucky and glad that we did it together."

Stewart joins four-time winner Teresa Edwards, three-time winners Lisa Leslie and Taurasi and Cheryl Miller and Dawn Staley as the only players to win the award more than once.

"All the opportunity USA Basketball has given me, my thought process is not 'let me go and be MVP of whatever (tournament). It is OK, let me help my country win a gold medal and then doing all the extra stuff just happens," Stewart said, "I am honored to be named USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year but I wouldn't trade that for any of the gold medals."

Stewart had 24 points, nine rebounds, four assists, two steals and six blocked shots on the day when she received the prestigious honor.

Stewart's impressive performance tonight and success playing for USA Basketball is not a surprise to the UConn player who has been with her nearly every step of the way.

"I think it is special," said Morgan Tuck, who had a career-high 19 points on 8 of 10 shooting. "Stewie is a special player and she is a special person and for her to do that twice, that is something that hasn't been done a lot and when it has been done it has been by the great players. I think she is on track to becoming one of those legendary players who girls 20 years from now will be talking about."

The always quotable Auriemma, who is also the U.S. senior national team coach, didn't disappoint in discussing the USA Basketball impact on his program.

"We are proud Americans, what can I say, we are living the dream. Italian kid snuck over on the boat like Leonardo DeCaprio and next thing you know I have all of these USA Basketball around," Auriemma said. "We should be giving out plaques every Sunday when he have this games. 

"All I can say is my guys love playing USA Basketball and it seems like every kid we recruit they talk about winning national championships at Connecticut and they talk about winning gold medals, that seems to be the two things that are consistent so it is no coincidence that it happens. They are committed to it. I can't even explan to you how committed they are to it."

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