Commentary

Breanna Stewart: Poised to thrive

HoopGurlz staff members project big things at UConn for the unselfish star

Updated: March 28, 2012, 2:03 PM ET
By Chris Hansen, Keil Moore, Glenn Nelson | HoopGurlz

Breanna Stewart of Cicero-North Syracuse (Cicero, N.Y.) is one of the rare women's college prospects to hold the No. 1 spot through all four iterations of class rankings by ESPN HoopGurlz. Prior to tipoff of the McDonald's All-American Game on Wednesday, ESPN HoopGurlz staff members give their takes on how they believe her college career at Connecticut will unfold.

Like Maya?

[+] EnlargeBreanna Stewart
Glenn Nelson/ESPN.comBreanna Stewart took over in her final two high school games and led Cicero-North Syracuse (Cicero, N.Y.) to a top 10-finish in the POWERADE FAB 50.

From the first time I saw her, I thought Breanna Stewart was the best non-freak-of-nature prospect (category includes one player, Brittney Griner) I'd seen since Maya Moore. Like Moore, Stewart has a unique combination of wingspan, uncanny balance and a strong but pliable body that can twist and conform into a variety of situations.

The one question I had about Stewart was about her being too nice. Moore was a sweetheart off the court, but she was from a young age as competitive as any athlete I'd ever covered. She'd cut your heart out for a win, and we saw her win games on last possessions, over and over again.

Unselfishness and fitting in with her teammates is so ingrained in Stewart's game and personality. It's definitely not a bad thing. It's the one thing that has made her high school team successful; she's made her teammates better because of their trust and love of her. Stewart finds it difficult to break from the mold and completely take over, though with first a state public school championship and then a state tournament of champions title on the line, she averaged 29.8 points and 18.5 rebounds, and willed her team to victories, in her last four high school games.

Stewart is at her best with other good players. That sounds easier than it is. She can stand out, but not to the same degree as she can in high school. Her unselfishness and work ethic lifts her teammates. Just look at her success with USA Basketball. That's still Stewart being Stewart, but she's the most internationally successful player in high school history.

So I think Connecticut, with its constellation of stars, is a place where Stewart will shine. She'll make an impact as a freshman, probably a big one, but I'd be surprised if she took over as an alpha player. Yet, I'll bet, with Geno Auriemma's prodding, she will be something really special by the start of her junior season.

-- Glenn Nelson

In a balanced mix

[+] EnlargeStewart
Glenn Nelson/ESPN.com The conditions at UConn should be just right for Breanna Stewart to become a major college star.

When you talk about the overall success of a player in college, there are a number of uncontrollable factors that come into play. If Breanna Stewart is blessed with good health, she should find her way on to the court early in her career at UConn. While she is a special player on both sides of the ball, the one knock on her at this point might be her lack of ability to take over a game, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

The good thing for Stewart is that her teammate for the next three years, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, has been known to do this from time to time. Mosqueda-Lewis will have a year under her belt when Stewart joins her, and her own effectiveness will be enhanced by the addition. Mosqueda-Lewis and Stewart could combine to be a formidable duo over the next three years in Storrs, Conn.

Oftentimes when I talk about this next crop of Connecticut talent I compare them to the Detroit Pistons of the late 1990s and early 2000s. They will have balance 1 through 5 on the court. This will give them the ability to force defenses to pick their poison in trying to game plan for them. Stewart's strengths as a player will be magnified by the fact that she will never be asked to do things she can't do on the floor. She'll have teammates who can mask her weaknesses and highlight her strengths.

With the likes of Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck coming with her, Stewart will have quality talent on which she can lean throughout her career, and at some point you have to believe Geno Auriemma can get her to start accepting the burden of being the star that she is and getting her to take over from time to time when need be.

-- Keil Moore

Waiting her turn

The praise I cast on Stewart about waiting her turn I think will continue to be a boon in college. She will step into a lineup that returns its entire frontcourt from this season. Whether she is pushed into the starting lineup or plays a more freshman-like role as a reserve, she will make an impact. She fills the stat sheet because she is an elite shot-blocker and offensive rebounder. Her timing and touch alone will have her flirting with more double-doubles than other Big East frontcourt players playing more minutes.

And much like her experience with USA Basketball, she will have talent surrounding her, allowing her to focus on playing the game, not carrying a team. The situation is ideal for a prized freshman recruit to take her lumps, get screamed at yet have a supporting cast that will not need her to be further along than she is in her -- wait for it -- process.

People were up in arms with the evolution of Baylor's Brittney Griner, who was thrust into the role of savior, godsend and superstar, before her development was really ready for it. You see the results of patience from the junior this season. I expect Stewart will have a lesser impact her first two seasons in Storrs, because it won't be needed, though her ability could still be the key to the Huskies' taking a team expected to come close to winning a championship this season to win-it-all-or-bust. With Stewart's advanced skill, along with her attitude of embracing the expectations, expect big things during her final two years in Storrs.

-- Chris Hansen

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Chris Hansen is the national director of prospects for ESPN HoopGurlz and covers girls' basketball and women's college basketball prospects nationally for ESPN.com. A graduate of the University of Washington with a communications degree, he has been involved in the women's basketball community since 1998 as a high school and club coach, trainer, evaluator and reporter. Hansen can be reached at chris.hansen@espn.com.

Keil Moore is a contributor and national recruiting analyst for ESPN HoopGurlz. He is also the director of scouting for the JumpOffPlus.com National Scouting Report -- a division of Peach State Basketball, Inc. Moore has been involved in the community since 2007 as a recruiting analyst and trainer. He can be reached at kmoore@peachstatehoops.com or you can follow him on Twitter @keilmoore.

Glenn Nelson is a senior writer at ESPN.com and the founder of HoopGurlz.com. A graduate of Seattle University and Columbia University, he formerly coached girls' club basketball, was a co-founder and editor-in-chief of an online sports network, authored a basketball book for kids, has had his photography displayed at the Smithsonian Institute, and was a longtime, national-award-winning newspaper columnist and writer. He can be reached at glenn@hoopgurlz.com.