As Breanna Stewart prepares to add to her incredible medal haul with the United States in Sydney, the greatest female basketball player has been reflecting on her vast FIBA career.
‘Stewie’s’ career is profoundly founded in her passion for playing in FIBA events, a fact that may be unknown to many fans and maybe even some basketball workers.
She admits that it has affected her job and attitude on life. As a rising star in high school basketball, she has participated in the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup for more than 13 years. She is now competing in her third FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup.
Mexico 2009: The beginning of an incredible adventure
According to some who believe that timing is everything in life, the United States star arrived just as FIBA youth tournaments were being revitalized and enlarged.
In 2009, the FIBA U16 Americas Women’s Championship and 14-year-old Stewart both made their debuts. Unbelievably, she nearly did not go at all.
Stewart said that he was astonished when he attended his first competition in 2009, the FIBA Americas U16 Championships in Mexico.
“I felt tremendous pride in representing the United States, and I was filled with a wide range of emotions. I recall my parents saying “we’re going, we’re going to be there, this is incredible.”
“That was the beginning. That marked the beginning of the voyage.”
She went on: “Looking back, I also recall that when I received an invitation to the USA trials, Mike Flynn [Bluestar Basketball] was the one who convinced my parents to let me attend. Initially, they were uncertain and maybe did not fully comprehend its significance.
“Once I arrived and joined the squad, I was on the Colorado Springs campus and observed everything related to the Olympics and Paralympics. This gave me the inspiration and motivation to one day join the senior national team and represent my country at the best level possible.”
The United States proved unstoppable in Mexico and cruised to the top step of the podium, despite Stewart’s relatively little contribution as the youngest member of the lineup.
France 2010: First U17 World Championships become worldwide
In addition to FIBA bringing the U16 to the Americas, the U.S. and Stewart qualified for the first FIBA U17 Women’s Basketball World Cup, which was held in France.
It was jam-packed with athletes who, like Stewart, would go on to excel in the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup. Emma Meesseman, Jewell Loyd, Meng Li, Nirra Fields, and Yuki Miyazawa are ballers.
Stewart giggled as she reflected on her first basketball journey outside of North and South America.
“As it was my second basketball competition with Team USA, it had become a part of my routine. Although playing teams from across the globe for the first time was an incredible opportunity and experience.
“We continue to meet paths with a large number of these guys who participated in the FIBA U17 Championships back then. Whether in the WNBA, EuroLeague Women, FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup, or Olympics.
Stewart said, “I believe it’s remarkable that we were able to be among the first in global events, the first FIBA Americas U16 and the first FIBA U17 Women’s Basketball World Cup.”
Stewart averaged a team-second-best 12.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game as the United States won the first championship with a perfect 8-0 record and a gold medal for Stewart.
From Volcanic Ash Clouds to Cold and Gold in Chile in 2011
Stewart chuckled as she reflected about her first FIBA U19 Women’s Basketball World Cup, which was held in Puerto Mont, Chile. “What a long, long trip it is to go to that region of Chile — amazing!”
“That’s what I remember most, because we were going down there and then had to make a diversion, and we were in the air for an eternity.”
The disturbance was caused by a volcanic eruption in Chile that ejected so much ash into the sky that flights from distant nations, such as Australia, were canceled as a precaution.
In the meanwhile, Stewart remembered the abrupt temperature change, the travel, and basketball itself.
She said: “It was also my first time travelling below the equator and that meant in terms of the weather, it was winter. I recall that it was so chilly that we practiced in sweatpants and hoodies.
“Yes, Chile was my first FIBA U19 experience, and there I played not just against guys who had participated in the U17 World Championships the previous year, but also against some of the older group.
“All that mattered was that I was able to compete with those older guys. Looking back, I cannot adequately express my gratitude and appreciation for that chance.”
Stewart, although being younger than her teammates and the majority of other players in the competition, led the undefeated United States in points and rebounds. Her extraordinary accomplishments earned her the title of USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year.
Check her passport in Lithuania in 2013…
In 2013, when Steward arrived in Lithuania for her second FIBA U19 Women’s Basketball World Cup, she had continued to rise to the forefront of the women’s basketball scene.
A year previously, she was named MVP of the FIBA U18 Americas Women’s Championship after averaging 14 points per game, and she had won her fourth gold medal with the United States.
Now she was pondering the peculiarity of having played twice in the U19 FIBA World Championships, which, to her pleasure, many people could not comprehend.
Stewart chuckled as he recalled, “Because I had previously competed in the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championships, some people were verifying my age to make sure I was old enough to really participate.”
“By that time, I was familiar with the competition. I was able to do all I could to aid the squad since I was aware of what was required of us.”
Certainly, she did that. Stewie was named MVP after averaging 16.9 points per game in Lithuania to lead the United States to another championship.
Intriguingly, when discussing yet another gold medal, the author reflected on how her experience at the Pan-American Games outside of Lithuania resulted in the unique sensation of not being on top of the podium.
“Even when you were a young player, the objective was always to win gold. And if you don’t win gold, you’ll remember it even more “added Stewart.
“I recall the Pan-American Games in which we did not win gold. I was still in high school when I played my first game, which was in seventh grade. I don’t believe we need to discuss this issue at length. In the other competition, I believe we won a silver medal “She pondered.
In 2011, Stewart was just the second high school athlete in the history of the United States Pan American team, after Nancy Lieberman, who participated on the 1975 squad over 20 years before Stewart was born.
2014 Turkey: Electric atmosphere and great lessons
Just one year after the U19 World Championships in Lithuania, Stewart was moved to the senior squad and made her FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup debut in Turkey.
“It was incredible, and I distinctly recall being in Turkey. The atmosphere was electric. I believe we played Turkey, and that was really insane.
“That was one of my first encounters with the senior national team, so I had to be a sponge and absorb everything. When I recall the inaugural FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup, everything seems to be whirling. I said, “Seriously, what is going on?”
As a rookie player, Stewart averaged just six minutes per game, but this was the beginning of a cycle that would propel her from bench player to Tenerife’s MVP.
She declared: “It was incredible to experience my first FIBA Women’s World Cup with veterans like as Sue (Bird), Dee (Diana Taurasi), and Big G (Brittney Griner), among others.
“That was a long-lasting group that just disbanded last year; having showed me the path, they have transferred the torch to me.”
2018 in Spain: The crowning
By her second FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in 2018, things had altered drastically. Stewart had made her Olympic debut in Rio and was dominating the WNBA. All of the early efforts and accomplishments were now bearing fruit. Her performances for club and nation were replete with skill and ebullience.
Stewart recalled winning the WNBA Finals that year and going to Spain after boarding a plane.
“It was very competitive, and my function was vastly distinct. I was a starter and was able to contribute in several ways.”
This really low evaluation is characteristic of Stewart. In addition to her recent WNBA MVP and WNBA Finals MVP honors with the Seattle Storm, she won another gold medal in Tenerife as the tournament’s most valuable player.
She played much more minutes than any of her teammates, which was indicative of her importance to the Americans throughout the campaign. A leader for the United States in the next decade and beyond had come.
Forever appreciative of the FIBA experience
Stewart looks back on her FIBA trip with enormous pleasure and pride as she contemplates adding to her already impressive career in the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in Sydney. Clearly recognizing that the road has included more than simply basketball.
She beamed: “It is a wonderful opportunity to be able to go to all of these other locations. Seeing locations that I would not have otherwise seen.
“On the court, I have undoubtedly won gold medals, but making memories has been my primary objective. Since beginning with the FIBA U16s and FIBA U17s and progressing through the levels, I have gained a great deal of knowledge.
“I also mean doing it with others, like Betnijah (Laney) was with me in the U16s at the beginning and is now in Sydney. It’s wonderful to have all of these memories and events.
Stewart continued, “I must also give respect to USA basketball, who continue to do an excellent job of bringing youngsters up the pipeline and letting them to compete against the greatest players in the world.”