When the United States and Senegal tipped off Sunday afternoon in Rio, Breana Stewart found herself in an unfamiliar place.
Not only was Stewart on the bench, she was about to play in her first game of a tournament the four-time NCAA champion and presumptive Rookie of the Year had never experienced: the Olympics.
The 21-year-old has had a whirlwind of a year in 2016, from winning a National Championship with UConn in March, to be be drafted first overall by the Storm in May, to now finding herself on the Women’s National Team donning the red, white and blue at the Olympics.
Despite the roller coaster of emotions she likely was feeling, Stewart was able to keep a cool head about her and settled into the scoring role that has been her bread and butter for years. At the end of the contest Stewart’s 15 points were tied for a game-high while her 83% shooting from the field (5-for-6) was the best mark among any player on the floor.
“This is my first Olympics, so nothing about it is old. It’s all new. We wanted to come out and set the tone for the tournament, and then individually I want to help make an impact,” Stewart said after the win. “Obviously, to be here and be the youngest one here, I’m just trying to be a sponge in learning from the vets, but also when it’s my turn go out and play.”
Stewart’s talent far outstretches her age. Midway through her first professional season, Stewart’s fifth in the WNBA in scoring and second in rebounding. Her immense talent earned her spot on the United States this summer and prepared her for the 8:48 mark of the second quarter against Senegal. The prodigy caught a nifty dish from Seimone Augustus just left of the free-throw stripe and without hesitation smoothly tossed up a jumper with a simple flick of the wrist, and swoosh. Stewart had opened up her Olympic scoring bank.
Stewart’s Olympic debut shouldn’t have surprised anyone though. She’s the total package on a basketball court and if her name wasn’t known internationally before, it certainly will be after Rio.