Former UConn great Stewart ecstatic to get Olympic nod
On Friday USA Basketball Women's National Team Director Carol Callan placed a call to Stewart to inform the former UConn star that she was among the 12 players being named to the U.S. team playing in the Olympics.
"I was nervous when she called. I thought that either she was going to say I made the team or
didn't make the team," Stewart said on Wednesday at an event in New York commemorating the 100 days until the start of the Olympics. "She congratulated me right away, I didn't even know what to say, I was speechless.
"The first people I spoke to were my parents.They have been with me through this the entire process and I want to make sure that (they knew that) me going to the Olympics means they are going to the Olympics too."
"It is an unbelievable feeling to be able to be here, be a part of the Olympic team, we've talked about it a lot but to for it actually to be coming true, it is amazing. I think definitely being here celebrating 100 days out makes it hit home a little bit more realizing that this is reality, in 100 days I am going to be in Brazil fighting with my teammates for a gold medal."
Stewart joins Elena Delle Donne and Brittney Griner as the first-time Olympians on the team. Four years ago former UConn stars Tina Charles and Maya Moore were among the Olympic newcomers and they both weighed in on what Stewart and the other first-time Olympians should try to take out of the events in Rio in August.
"I would definitely tell them to appreciate the process of what it takes to win," Charles said. "I think for me I was so excited to be there that I didn't take in every little detail from Catch (Tamika Catchings), Sue (Bird) and Diana (Taurasi) so anything they can (learn) from them knowing that this is their last go round they should definitely pay attention."
So what does Charles most appreciate about what Stewart will bring to the team?
"I would have to say her eagerness, her eyes are really wide right now and I know she is going to really value every possession and every minute she is on the floor," Charles said. "I think just how eager she is to be on the team and know that she is going to play hard every second."
Moore looks at Stewart and recalls being in a similar situation four and six years ago when she was the rising superstar playing alongside some legendary players.
"Stewie and I have pretty much identical paths as far as being the young one, being a No. 1 draft pick, coming from a successful college career and having to step up and lead in her class, in her generation because she is one of the leaders of the next generation if things go the way we all think they will for her," Moore said. "It is really cool to make this official and look forward to this opportunity. For her to go into her Olympic (debut) with the captains (Bird, Catchings and Taurasi) that we have, then we have Syl (Sylvia Fowles), Seimone (Augustus), Whay (Lindsay Whalen), just so many different ways she can appreciate her time as a young player but also wanting to go in and contribute as well so I think it is a really memorable time for her."
Bird joins Catchings and Taurasi by being named to her fourth Olympic team something previously only accomplished by Teresa Edwards and Lisa Leslie. She also has the opportunity to see Stewart up close and personal as they are teammates with the WNBA's Seattle Storm.
"Being an Olympian has weight." Bird said. "It is pretty special that Stewie can get to experience that and have that on her resume, I know she is going to make the most of it."
So how has Stewart done in her first couple of days at training camp?
"She is doing great. training camp in the WNBA is so short so you really have to throw a lot out there but she has picked up things very well," Bird said. "Offensively, I think the more we are together we will get comfortable but you can already see her talent, you can already see the things she does and her versatility and that she will be able to play multiple spots on the floor. Her defense day one is just unbelievable. Obviously people have to get used to her just like people have to get used to a player like Brittney Griner but she was immediately blocking pretty much everybody's shot."
Taurasi, Griner, Augustus and Angel McCoughtry were unable to make it to today's event because of they are still playing overseas.
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