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Saturday, July 20, 2019

Breanna Stewart: An Up-Close Look at a 2012 Phenom, With Video Interview and Highlights

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Photo Caption: Breanna Stewart is head-and-shoulders over most of her contemporaries in the women’s high school basketball class of 2012. In this article, Full Court takes a look at the young star and gives our readers a chance to do the same in words and video.

Photo Credit: Full Court Press/Glenn MacGrady

By Glenn MacGrady

High school junior Breanna Stewart has been catching the eye of college coaches, scouts, and the women’s basketball media across the country for some time now.

“I was able to see Breanna Stewart over the Christmas break in Orlanda,” said Kenny Kallina, one of Full Court’s high school analysts and the owner of Florida Insider.  “A player that I believe to be one of the top two in the country, Stewart has a unique game with her long athletic ability and skill set. A springy athlete who can create off the dribble there is little doubt she will play at one of the nation’s elite programs and possibly be the future of the 4 position in this country,” Kallina added of the 6-3 forward out of New York’s Cicero-North Syracuse High School.

And it’s not just Full Court who thinks so. “Anytime Stewart takes the floor she leaves little doubt that she’s playing at another level than her peers,” says ESPN-HoopGurlz, which, along with other national ranking services such as Blue Star Basketball and All-Star Girls Report, currently rate Breanna Stewart as the No. 1 player in the high school class of 2012.

“Breanna Stewart is the most talented player to play for the Philly Belles since Dawn Staley in the late 1980’s,” says Kevin Lynch, national evaluator for Blue Star Basketball and long-time coach of the legendary Philly Belles AAU team, on which Stewart has played, a team which has featured such star players as Swin Cash, Crystal Langhorne, Tamika Williams and Laura Harper.

“Basketball skill-wise she can do everything,” says her high school coach, Eric Smith, but “her strongest strength is her mental abilities.”

These kinds of accolades, in addition to my own prior observations of her play, brought me to the Festival of Phoenix Tournament at Kean University in Union, New Jersey, recently to capture a close-up and in-depth evaluation of Breanna Stewart. In addition to the facts and analysis presented in this article, we have embedded below a 14-minute video interview with Breanna Stewart, a five-minute video interview with Coach Eric Smith, and a 12-minute highlight video of Stewart’s performance in two tournament games.

Currently a junior at Cicero-North Syracuse High School, Stewart recalls first attracting college coach attention after her AAU play for the Philly Belles during the summer between 8th and 9th grades. While Stewart began playing varsity for C-NS as an 8th grader, Coach Smith recalls the national attention on her high school game beginning after a Christmas tournament two years ago during her freshman year.

On the court Stewart does a bit of everything for her team, playing all five positions. She jumps center, posts up down low, roams and slashes from the perimeter, and dribbles the ball up court against a full court press. She didn’t take any three-point shots during her first varsity year, but has been improving in that skill and now averages about two per game. Stewart blocks a lot of shots because of her 6-10 wingspan, and draws a lot of fouls because of her aggressive and ambidextrous attacks in the paint.

Photo Caption: Stewart is a a first-class shot-blocker, thanks to good timing and a wingspan of 6 feet, 10 inches, that exceeds her height. Add to that some serious hops, and you’ve got a player whose value on defensive is on a par with her offensive prowess.
Photo Credit: Full Court Press/Glenn MacGrady

Last season in high school Stewart averaged 22 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, four steals and six blocks per game. So far this season she is averaging 23 points, 14 rebounds and 5 blocks per game. This past summer, as the youngest starter on the USA Basketball U17 team, and playing the fewest minutes of the starters, Stewart was second on the team in points, rebounds and field-goal percentage, and first on the team in free throws attempted, free throws made, steals and blocks. Indeed, averaging far fewer minutes (17.4 out of 40) than the star players of the other international teams, Stewart was second overall in the U17 World Championship Tournament in blocks, third in field-goal percentage, 8th in defensive rebounds and 14th in scoring.

Photo Caption: Stewart’s game has profited for her U.S. national team experience at the developmental level. Last summer she helped lead the team to the gold medal in the FIBA U17 World Championship.
Photo Credit: Courtesy FIBA.com

Stewart admits to three nicknames. Some of her high school teammates call her “Bean” for reasons Stewart claims not to understand. She was dubbed “6-10” by her USA Basketball teammates for her wingspan. But she is mostly called “Bree” by her friends and family.

There is huge current interest, of course, in what college program Stewart will choose. She maintains publicly that she is interested in 10 schools, and in our video interview, Stewart said her geographical interest is “more on the east coast,” revealing that she has already taken unofficial visits so far to Duke, Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina, Penn State and Syracuse. She also voiced interest in Tennessee and Notre Dame, and the other two schools in her top 10 are Kentucky and Virginia. Stewart says she has offers from all these schools. Of significance, Stewart revealed in our video interview that she will make her final decision on the basis of her unofficial visits before her senior year.

We filmed Stewart in two games at the Festival of the Phoenix Tournament, including all but one of her made baskets, most of her misses, and other action sequences that feature her dribbling, passing and rebounding. Frankly, neither she nor her team played particularly well in either game.

The first game was against Blair Academy of New Jersey, which featured 6-5 senior Temi Fagbenle, a top 10-ranked player in the high school class of 2011, who is bound for Harvard. Cicero-North Syracuse won the game, 48-38, and Stewart outscored Fagbenle, 17-14. However, Stewart started out very cold, missing several drives and putbacks.

Photo Caption: Breanna Stewart (No. 30, blue) posts up against another of the nation’s top recruits, 6-5 senior Terni Fagbenle of New Jersey’s Blair Academy. Stewart got the better of that match-up.
Photo Credit: Full Court Press/Glenn MacGrady

The second game was against a much stronger New Jersey opponent, St. John Vianney High School, a team that returned four starters from a squad that beat NYS Federation Champion Christ the King High School on the latter’s home court last season. St. John pressured Cicero-North Syracuse with a full court press for much of the game, forcing a lot of turnovers. Stewart was commandeered into constant dribbling duty as the primary press breaker, but ended up forcing several low quality shots as her team fell behind, finally losing, 48-37. The following highlight video from the Festival of the Phoenix Tournament games shows both the bitter and the better in Stewart’s performances.

After the Festival of the Phoenix Tournament, Cicero-North Syracuse High School defeated three opponents to win the KSA Holiday Classic in Orlando, Florida. Stewart scored 28, 37 and 30 points in those wins, and is now averaging 25.7 points per game. Cicero-North Syracuse is now 6-1 on the season.

Though her performance at the Festival of the Phoenix Tournament may not be the best evidence, Breanna Stewart may be the most talented and multiply skilled forward in high school since Maya Moore. As demonstrated by her play in the U17 World Championships, Stewart performs better when surrounded by other talented players than when she is the dominant focus of both offense and defense. She would probably develop best in a college program that can capitalize on her multi-positional skills in a team framework.

Now, let’s hear directly from Stewart and her coach:




Originally published Sun, January 23, 2011

Reader Discussion
Posted by Linkster January 31, 2011

Great, in depth article. Don’t see why she’d want to play for Duke.

Posted by Linkster January 31, 2011

Great, in depth article. Don’t see why she’d want to play for Duke.

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Week: February 7, 2012
1 Baylor (31) 24-0 1 1 1 775
2 Notre Dame 23-1 2 2 2 743
3 Connecticut 21-2 3 4 3 710
4 Stanford 20-1 4 5 4 685
5 Duke 19-3 6 8 5 650
6 Miami (FL) 20-3 7 7 6 604
7 Kentucky 21-3 5 15 7 584
8 Maryland 20-3 10 10 8 534
9 Wisconsin-Green Bay 20-0 9 24 9 530
10 Ohio State 21-2 11 NR-RV
10 483
11 Tennessee 17-6 8 3 11 476
12 Delaware 20-1 13 NR 12 434
13 Georgetown 18-5 15 11 14 379
14 Texas A&M 16-5 16 6 15 378
15 Nebraska 19-3 18 NR 13 309
16 Rutgers 17-4 14 12 17 372
17 Louisville 17-6 12 9 20 276
18 Gonzaga 21-3 19 NR-RV
19 234
19 Purdue 19-5 17 21 16 222
20 Georgia 18-6 20 12 21 202
21 Penn State 18-5 21 14 18 176
22 DePaul 17-7 23 18 NR-RV
23 Georgia Tech 16-6 22 NR-RV
22 104
24 South Carolina 18-5 NR-RV
NR 24 46
25 Vanderbilt 18-5 NR-RV
NR 45
Dropped Out: No. 24 North Carolina, No. 25 Kansas.
First-place votes: Total first-place votes received (if any) are indicated in parentheses following school name.
Others receiving votes: St. Bonaventure (22-2) 34; North Carolina (17-6) 19; California (17-6) 18; Florida Gulf Coast (21-2) 16; Middle Tennessee (19-5) 15; Texas-El Paso (20-2) 8; Texas Tech (16-6) 5; Brigham Young (21-4) 4; Fresno State (19-4) 4; St. John's (15-8) 4; Princeton (15-4) 3; Oklahoma (15-7) 2; West Virginia (17-6) 2; Kansas State (15-7) 1.
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Credit: Courtesy Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). The weekly Division I Top 25 Coaches' Poll, sponsored by USA Today and ESPN, is based on voting by a Board of Coaches made up of 31 head coaches at Division I institutions all of whom are WBCA members.