With a win Sunday at KeyArena against Connecticut , Seattle (11-4) moves into a first-place tie in the WNBA standings. Meanwhile, Stewart, the league's scoring leader, is at the front of the MVP race.
Productivity was never the problem.
Immediately after the Storm selected Breanna Stewart with the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2016, the former Connecticut Huskies star who won four national championships and four NCAA tournament Most Outstanding Player awards became Seattle’s best player.
As a rookie, she carried the Storm back to the playoffs after a two-year absence and has led the team in scoring, rebounding and blocks in each of her first two seasons.
Despite winning the Rookie of the Year award in 2016 and playing in the WNBA All-Star game in 2017, Stewart was far from content because the Storm flamed out in the first round of the playoffs the past two years.
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“Every rookie is figuring out their place and how they’re going to fit into this league and what it takes day in and day out,” said Storm teammate Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who played three years with Stewart at UConn. “Now she’s figured out herself. She knows what she’s capable of. She knows that she can be the best person on the court every single night if she wants to be.”
Midway into her third season, the 23-year-old Stewart is the best basketball of her life and has recaptured the winning touch that made her college phenomenon.
“You can feel that confidence when you’re on the floor with her, when you’re playing against her and even at practice,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “She’s just more sure of herself and knows what she’s capable of, knows how hard she’s worked and she proves that every single night.”
Heading into Sunday’s 4 p.m. matchup with Connecticut (9-6) at KeyArena, Stewart leads the WNBA in scoring with 22.6 points per game and is first in the league with a 29.2 player efficiency rating.
The 6-foot-4 forward measures favorably statistically against the league’s other MVP candidates, but perhaps her biggest contribution is infusing a refuse-to-lose mentality into a team that hasn’t had a winning season since 2011.
“It definitely is the most important thing,” said Stewart who compiled a 151-5 record at UConn. “I don’t think it matters if I have five points or 50 points, I just want to win that game. That’s obviously something that we’re doing better as a team.
“We’re coming in. We’re prepared for these games and we’re closing them out.”
With a win Sunday, the Storm (11-5) moves into a first-place tie with Phoenix (12-5) at the midpoint of the season.
“Even if we’re down a certain amount of points, we’ll fight back to get ourselves in position to be able to win the game,” Stewart said. “Just having the attitude and the confidence of we’re tired of losing. I’m tired of losing.”
Following an offseason where she played in China, Stewart returned to Seattle and spent several weeks working out with Sue Bird and Jewell Loyd before the WNBA season.
“The time that we had was really important for all of us,” Stewart said. “I prepared myself to have this type of season because I expected a lot from myself, but also our team.”
Stewart also took advice from Bird and began working with her trainer Susan Borchardt and nutrition consultant Dr. Susan Kleiner, which resulted in drastic changes in Stewart’s diet, workout and recovery techniques.
“I can tell (the difference) now, but I think I’ll be able to tell more as we get deeper in the season and I go overseas and it’s just a constant grind,” Stewart said. “Changing my diet and the way I’ve been working out and taking care of my body, it’s been huge.
“For me because I’m 23, you didn’t focus on it that much. I’m thinking, I’m 23, I can run around and if I want to eat Chick-fil-a, then I can eat Chick-fil-a. But I’m taking it more seriously. …. I wanted this season to be the best one yet.”
So far, so good.