On April 5, basketball history was made in Indianapolis. The University of Connecticut girls ‘achieved perfection’ when they won the National Championship. Not only did they win the title this year, which completed their undefeated season, but they also became the first NCAA Division I women’s team to win four consecutive NCAA Basketball Championships, an honor which arguably would not have been possible without star player, Breanna Stewart.
Stewart walked onto the court her freshman year with the goal of winning four national titles, according to the UConn Athletics website, and that is exactly what she did. Her freshman year, the team lost four games. Since then, only one game has been lost.
Stewart won many awards during her four-year career, but she made history by becoming the only player to receive the Final Four Most Outstanding Player award more than twice. In total, she earned this honor each of her four years at UConn.
This season, the UConn Huskies played 38 games. Stewart played in 37 games and was in the starting lineup in 36 games. Not only does Stewart have the statistics to show for her talent, but she also has the character as well.
Ever since she was a young girl, Stewart has been both determined and humble. “When she was a teenage superstar, her father, Brian, figured maybe she was like Tim Duncan and didn’t need to strut to show she was great. He had to tell her it was OK to pump her fist once in a while and celebrate being good,” reported Elizabeth Merrill with ESPN.
Stewart did not boast or brag about her accomplishments. In fact, she did almost the opposite. Stewart looked at things with a certain casual sense that her coach, Geno Auriemma, had never seen before.
When Stewart succeeded at something, she appeared almost as shocked and excited as the crowd.
Auriemma described his favorite video of Stewart, saying, “[She] hits a jump shot from the corner, and the camera is on her as she turns around. She smiles and claps wildly. Like a 12-year-old who just got a quarter at a crafts fair for doing something right.”
Although Auriemma was not used to this kind of emotion from his players, he was clearly able to see that she was having fun like a kid. He offered Stewart some valuable advice regarding her pure happiness for the game.
“Don’t ever lose that,” Auriemma said, according to ESPN. “That’ll keep you going for a long time.”
Even being the star she was, Stewart never expected anything. She knew what she wanted, put in the work, and did not get discouraged by outside comments and criticisms. When Stewart declared that she wanted to win four National titles, it caused frenzy because no men or women’s basketball team had ever achieved that honor.
Stewart was confused, questioning, “Doesn’t everyone want to win four National Championships?”
Despite the uproar her comment caused, Stewart went on to do just what she said she was going to, without ever gloating in her success and always with her supportive and extremely talented teammates right by her side.
” ‘It was perfect,’ Stewart said after the game. ‘To play with these guys is unbelievable,’ ” reported National Public Radio.
With her “7-foot-1 wingspan, silky-smooth shot and ability to glide her 6-4 body down the floor like a guard,” reported ESPN, Stewart may quite possibly have changed women’s basketball forever.