By Cal Barash-David
On June 18, No. 1 overall draft pick Kelsey Plum made a mistake. It was a mistake that many have made before, and many will make again. Plum challenged Breanna Stewart at the rim.
After making a cut toward the basket behind Sue Bird, Plum collected a pass and bounded toward the hoop. She stopped at the low post and went up with the ball. There, the rookie Plum was introduced to 6-foot-4 Stewart and her 7’1 wingspan, a stretch that roughly matches that of NBA superstar LeBron James. In an all-too predictable fashion, Stewie sent both Plum and her apprehensive shot attempt to the floor with an authoritative rejection that led to a Bird transition jumper.
Stewart racked up a career-high five blocks that game, and added 22 points and 15 rebounds – both game highs – to boot.
After the game, Bird commended Stewie’s performance and utility.
“When we needed defensive stops, she was blocking shots, when we needed big plays, she was grabbing rebounds,” said Bird. “And then on the other end she was the one that finally started to knock down her shots, and once she did that, the game blew wide open.”
“She’s arguably the most versatile player in the league (with) what she can do on both ends of the floor, both sides of the ball,” added Bird.
Stewart steps onto the court with a tool box so big it’s remarkable that she can jump so high. She rebounds, passes, blocks shots and scores at will – in the paint, from beyond the arc, and everywhere in between, often displaying a refined mid-range game replete with pull-up, turn-around and fade-away jumpers.
She is the only player in the league who averages more than 18 points, eight rebounds and more than one three-pointer per game.
With an 18.4 point per game average, Stewie stands at seventh in the league in scoring. She is also averaging a league-fourth best 8.7 rebounds per game.
And she’s trending upward. Over the past two games, the former UCONN standout is averaging 26 points and 10 boards, including a 30 and 10 performance in the Storm’s last game – a 20-point win over the Dallas Wings.
For her opposition, she’s nearly impossible to defend. Try to stop her with a big, and she’ll stretch you out and shoot from deep. Put a guard on her, and she’ll back down to the basket and finish at the rim.
“She’s a guard in a post’s body,” said teammate Jewell Loyd. “She can do it all, she can play every position, one through five, like she does here. And it’s hard to guard. If you leave her, she’ll shoot it; if you guard her, she can drive by you. So it’s hard to contain.”
In only her second season, Stewie has already established herself as a walking double-double. She has tallied 17 double-doubles in her first season-and-a-half and has recorded double-digit points and rebounds in four of her last seven games.
And there is no rest for weary opposing defenses of the WNBA, Stewart’s career is just getting started. At 22, she is the only sophomore player to be in the top 10 in the league in scoring and rebounding.
“She’s all-tool. She’s still adding things to her game, she’s still working on so much, and it’s kind of cool to see (how) every year she comes back and works on something different,” commented Loyd. “She grows, and she gets better.”
“She’s just focused. She wants to be the best, she wants to win championships and she’s going to do whatever she needs to do to help our team,” Loyd added.
It seems ludicrous that Stewart has never played in an All-Star game, but such is the case. Due to the Olympics last year – Stewart’s rookie season – no all-star game was held. But now, Stewie is doing everything that can be done on a basketball court to earn her place with the best.