UConn sophomore Breanna Stewart and her fellow college player invitees made quite an impression at the U.S. national women’s basketball camp according to several sources on Oct. 7. The six collegiate players were among the 32 players that received invitations to the Las Vegas camp (Oct. 5-6).
Stewart was joined at the camp by her UConn teammates Stefanie Dolson and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis. Notre Dame’s Kayla McBride, Baylor’s Odyssey Sims and Maryland’s Alyssa Thomas were the other three collegiate players.
“If you just walked into the gym and didn’t know who anyone was or how old they were you might have been hard-pressed to figure out who was in college and who was in the pros,” U.S. national head coach Geno Auriemma said.
Stewart, who has been playing for her country since she was 14 and already has won five gold medals for the U.S., was the most impressive of the six.
On one play during a scrimmage at the camp, the 6-foot-4 star got an offensive rebound by skying above the rim and tipping it in for an easy two points. A few seconds later she drained a deep 3-pointer from the corner that helped her team pull off the victory.
“Those of us who know Stewie and know what she can do on a regular basis aren’t that surprised,” Auriemma said, “She made a huge impression on everybody here, the players, the committee and the coaches.”
National team vet Candace Parker was really impressed by the collegiate players.
“Kayla McBride, she’s played extremely well. She’s knocking down the shot. I didn’t realize how strong and how much of a pro body she has already. Obviously Stewart has played amazing,” Parker said. I think it’s great for young guys to get out, get this experience and be able to play at the highest level with the national team. It’s a lot of fun because this is what you dream of doing, ever since you were younger, it’s to come out and play with the senior national team, try to get on the Olympic team and win a gold medal.”
It was also really helpful having the young players at the camp with five of the 32 players invited unable to attend because of the WNBA finals. Eight players, including returning Olympians Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird, Parker, Fowles and Tina Charles, were in Las Vegas but unable to participate fully because of nagging injuries.
“The college kids got a little more time then they probably would have if everyone had been healthy and here,” Auriemma said. “But looking towards the future for the U.S. having them around and getting this experience will definitely help with that.”
Thomas, the two-time reigning ACC Player of the Year, is the only one of the six collegiate players to never have played on a U.S. National Team.
The USA National Team, which has won five-straight Olympic gold medals, three of four FIBA World Championship gold medals, will compete in the 2014 FIBA World Championship (Sept. 27 - Oct. 5 in Ankara and Istanbul, Turkey), and if the USA qualifies, the 2016 Summer Olympic Games (Aug. 5 - 21 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil).