Breanna Stewart had stunning success as a UConn star, but she already has had two humbling losses in her first three games with Seattle. So far she’s handling those bumps well.
For what it’s worth, Breanna Stewart seems to be taking it in stride.
No sulking. No grumbling. No sign of inner turmoil.
Still, you can’t help but notice that the Storm rookie has lost more basketball games in the past nine days than she did in her previous three years at UConn. It’s … what’s the word?
“Different,” Stewart said.
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Last month, Stewart won her fourth straight NCAA title and fourth straight Final Four Most Outstanding Player. She was the frontwoman for the most dominant women’s basketball team ever, winning every game by double digits last season.
Stewart scored 23 points and grabbed six rebounds in that game, so she can’t be blamed for the blowout. It was about as strong a debut as a reasonable fan could hope for.
Even so, a loss that lopsided was a little like watching the anvil actually hit the roadrunner.
This is Breanna Stewart we’re talking about. That just doesn’t happen.
“I don’t think I’ve ever lost by 30, but it’s part of the game,” said the 6-foot-4 Stewart, whose Storm is 1-2 heading into a game Thursday against the Washington Mystics. “This season is so short and quick, that it’s on to the next thing.”
Pretty mature reaction from perhaps the most hyped WNBA rookie ever. And, from the sound of things, quite different from the one Sue Bird had when she lost her first game in the pros.
Bird’s UConn teams weren’t quite as mighty as Stewart’s, but the Storm point guard did win the second of her two NCAA titles as a senior. So you could understand why dropping her first WNBA game a month later wasn’t easy to stomach.
“I remember after the first loss I came into the locker room and I was all upset, but I realized pretty quickly that nobody else was,” Bird said. “They couldn’t be, because we had a game probably in two days.”
My guess is that Storm fans hoped Stewart would come into the league and immediately transform Seattle into a title contender. They envisioned that UConn supremacy translating seamlessly to the WNBA.
But I think what we’ve seen so far is much more intriguing than an undefeated start would have been. The best college player ever is being forced to do something for the very first time — catch up to her peers.
Don’t take that as a slight, because there have been times when Stewart has looked sensational. The 14 points and nine boards she posted in the first half Sunday would have impressed anyone who enjoys basketball.
She’d rip down a one-handed rebound, glide coast-to-coast like a point guard, then drop a dime for a layup. She would guard 6-foot-6 Sylvia Fowles on one possession and 6-foot Maya Moore on the next.
But then came the second half, when Minnesota held Stewart to zero points on 0-for-10 shooting. After the game, I brought up her scoreless second half.
“Dang, throw it in my face,” Stewart said with a smile. “I missed a lot of easy shots. I should have made them, but I can’t let it affect me.”
Stewart didn’t seem too affected after that 78-71 loss to the Lynx. In fact, in the middle of one postgame interview, she shouted her disbelief at the halftime score of the Thunder-Warriors NBA playoff game.
Her perspective seems healthy. Her mind seems right. Now, we wait to see what she can do next.
A track coach once told me that, no matter how hard they train, sprinters will never reach full potential if they don’t run with athletes who are faster. That’s when their competitive instinct kicks in and forces runners to get better.
I think we’re going to see that with Stewart now.
As far as raw talent goes, she might not have an equal in this league. She can shoot, rebound, defend, handle the ball and work in the post.
In college, we watched her sit at the top for four years. Now, we have the chance to watch her climb there.