Women's Basketball: Stewart sits atop the pantheon of UConn greats

Breanna Stewart is already immortalized among the greats of UConn lore.

Her name and No. 30 sit on the wall of Gampel Pavilion next to the many of legends she is constantly measured against. Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore and Rebecca Lobo ­– these are just a few of the Huskies who are always in the same breath as Stewart, and rightfully so.

But somehow, at a school with 11 national championships, Stewart has managed to find a way to separate herself from a pack filled with National Player of the Year awards, numerous All-American selections and all those banners in the rafters.

Stewart ends her career as part of the most successful class in the history of women’s basketball with 151 wins over four years. She is second all-time in points with 2,676, fourth in rebounds with 1,179 and first in blocks with 414. She is the only player NCAA history with more than 400 blocks and 400 assists. No other player in the history of collegiate basketball has 300 in both of those categories.

And by the way, she has four-straight national championships.

Breanna Stewart climbs the ladder to cut down the nets following UConn's 82-51 victory over Syracuse in the national championship game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind. on Tuesday April 5, 2016. Stewart has been named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four four times, a collegiate record. (Bailey Wright/The Daily Campus)

Taurasi? She’s got three.

Moore? She’s got two.

A national championship does not come easily, but Stewart sure made it look like it does. Why? Because no one has ever played the game like Stewart has. She’s the greatest to ever put on a UConn uniform. She’s someone who has managed to elevate what was already a dynasty to a completely different level.

Taurasi had the swagger, the sharp-shooting and legendary passing skills. Moore had unheralded athleticism and versatility, and was the greatest scorer UConn has ever seen. But neither of them compare to Stewart and the skillset she utilized to terrorize opponents over the course of these last four years.

Stewart is 6-foot-4-inch freak athlete with a wingspan of more than seven feet. She can dunk with ease, though she never did in college. She can score in any way imaginable, whether it be in transition, in the post with a variety of moves over either shoulder or from outside the paint, where she has evolved into a knockdown 3-point shooter and a devastating pull-up midrange jumper. Stewart may not have scored the most points at UConn, but it’s not how many she scored in this case. It’s the way she did it.

Defensively, it’s more of the same. Stewart is an exceptional shot blocker, but to call her just that is selling her short. With her athleticism and size, she can guard any player on the court and routinely skies over opponents to haul in rebounds on either end of the court.

But for me, it’s not just the skills and the talent that makes Stewart the greatest. It’s how she plays the game night in and night out.

There is almost always at least one play every game that perfectly explains Stewart’s greatness. This year, there were plenty. There’s the flying tip-in at Gampel against Notre Dame. The three-straight blocks against Duquesne. Her two-handed blocks and pinpoint outlet passes. She makes the game look effortless. Maybe it is – to her.

With her collegiate career now over and four championships to call her own, Stewart has reached another level. She has become the face of the most powerful and dominant dynasty since the UCLA men’s basketball teams of the 1960s and ‘70s. Taurasi, Moore and Lobo built this dynasty without a doubt, but Stewart is the one that reigns supreme.


Dan Madigan is the associate sports editor for The Daily Campus, covering women's basketball. He can be reached via email at daniel.madigan@uconn.edu. He tweets @dmad1433.