NEW YORK (AP) — Breanna Stewart is flourishing on the court in her rookie season and putting up incredible numbers. Unfortunately, those haven’t translated into many victories for Seattle.
It could grate on the rookie, who has already doubled the number of losses she had in her entire UConn career, but the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft hasn’t let it.
“It’s part of the game, I know that,” Stewart said of the losses. “I’m not going to throw a fit that we’re losing. It’s frustrating having a winning mentality and not always winning. Coming up short, it gets you.”
Stewart held a stat sheet in her hand after Wednesday’s 78-74 loss to New York. She did what she could to help her team win, putting up 24 points and 16 rebounds. It just wasn’t enough.
“With this league, what I’ve learned is that you have to focus on what’s next,” Stewart said. “Things go so quick, you have another game Friday. You can’t think about this game much longer. Have to focus on San Antonio and get wins under your belt.”
Stewart, who couldn’t remember the last time she lost double-digit games in a season, said that she still regularly texts with UConn coach Geno Auriemma. She only lost five games at UConn in four years.
“I talk to him a lot,” she said. “Whether it’s a couple times a month or a few times a week, it just depends. He’ll check in on me and make sure I’m doing all right. Obviously giving me advice with the losses, the frustration that comes with that. Reminding me, I can’t focus on that.”
Stewart will reunite with her former coach, who she won four consecutive NCAA titles under, at the end of the month when she plays for the U.S. women’s team — led by Auriemma — at the Olympics.
“I’m going to my first Olympics, represent the USA. I’m excited to wear (the uniform),” Stewart said. “Playing in the WNBA is the best way to prepare for it. Playing against players who will be your opponents or on your team.”
She’s already left quite the impression on the league in her first two months. She had a career-high 38 points against Atlanta last month. She’s averaging 18.7 points and a league-leading 9.8 rebounds. She’s shown versatility, playing all five positions on the floor Wednesday night against New York.
“She plays point, plays wing, plays post,” Seattle coach Jenny Boucek said. “However you want to classify the positions, she does it all for us.”
Boucek couldn’t think of many other players who have been able to play every position on the floor.
“Tamika Catchings maybe,” she said. “Maybe Candace Parker or (Elena) Delle Donne are similar.”
Sue Bird has been in the league since 2002, having played with and against some of the best the WNBA has had to offer. She is quick to praise the 21-year-old rookie.
“What’s impressed me is not what she does, but the amount she does,” Bird said. “People compare her to Lauren (Jackson) a lot because of Seattle or Elena Delle Donne because of the size. She’s a mixture of the two if you can imagine that. Think about that combination.
“She can do things down low that Lauren could do. Do things outside that Elena can do. She might have a better handle than them and then you add on the fact she can impact the game on the defensive end and her rebounding. I think people question what her ability is to handle the physicality of this league and she answered it. She’s in there banging every night.”
Stewart hasn’t only been leaving a mark on the court. She hasn’t been afraid to also speak up on off-court issues. When the Orlando shooting happened, she put the names of all the victims on her shoes and then auctioned them off after to raise money for them.
“I don’t know how much it’s going to do but to bring in more attention towards it and show people that we don’t want to just forget about this,” she said. “We can’t just let this go because it’s important.”
Hopefully the wins will start coming for Stewart and Seattle soon. At 6-12, they are sitting outside of the postseason — a place Stewart hasn’t been in a long, long time. She knows it’s a building process and plans to be part of the Storm’s success for years to come.
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