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Saturday, February 13, 2016

UConn's Stewart fired up for national team camp

When Breanna Stewart first heard about the national team training being held at UConn, she was led to believe that she would not be an active participant.

USA Basketball Women's National Team Director Carol Callan said as much to Stewart. However, UConn and U.S. national team coach Geno Auriemma had other ideas.

"Why should they put you on the team if you aren't going to practice?" Auriemma said. "What do you want them to do? Do you want them to see that you really, really want to be on this team or you want to watch who is going to be on this team? It is not make or break. This is not a tryout, like 'OK, we leave her and these 12 are on the team and these guys are not.' This is an opportunity for everybody to go, 'this is what this kid can do, this is what that kid can do; this is how this kid fits into that group.' I think she would be disappointed if she couldn't participate so it was never a question of she wasn't going to, it was just a matter of how much/ I will wait and see how much that Sunday, Monday and Tuesday."

Stewart is the only active college player among the 16 Olympic team finalists expected to take part in the camp from Feb. 21-23. UConn will not practice on the first day of the camp as it is a scheduled off day but she will take part in some degree at the Huskies' practices on the 22nd and 23rd.

"I will have her go through a normal practice for us where she goes about half speed for an hour and saves all of her energy for the game," Auriemma said with tongue planted firmly in his cheek. "She might not be as rested for the SMU game because she'll have to work a little harder against those guys than she does against our guys.

"I am not going to put her in jeopardy, believe me. I am not going to make her do something that I don't think is in her best interest "

It will be a chance for Stewart to test herself against some of the world's best players and have a chance to make a case for being a part of the Olympic team.
"I originally didn't think I was going to take part just because Carol Callan said that I wasn't," Stewart said. "You kind of understand because we are in the middle of a season here at UConn but Coach said that I would be participating and that was just this weekend. When you (hear) that, you are obviously excited. You want to play in this camp. It is probably the last training camp the national team will have before they name the Olympic team and it is only going to help.

"It is a huge opportunity to still be at UConn but look up to players that I have looked up to, who have done so much for women's basketball. Just to be on the same court with them, it is such a learning experience and will help me going forward."

With each training camp Stewart takes part in she feels more and more comfortable. There is still a respect factor when she takes the court against legendary figures but she now acts like she belongs there instead of being in awe of the company she is keeping.

"I remember when I went to my first national team training camp, I was a sophomore and I was with everyone," Stewart said. "You could look at the entire roster and go 'wow. There is Tamika Catchings, there is Candace Parker, there is Dee (Diana Taurasi), there is Sue (Bird).' The list could go on and on but watching them on TV and being able to play with and against them is awesome."



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