I had the chance to coax Mike Thibault, coach and GM of the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, into some off-the-cuff analysis of UConn’s sophomore Breanna Stewart on Saturday.
Thibault, the former coach of the Connecticut Sun, has the most victories of any coach in WNBA history. He has served USA Basketball, most recently an assistant coach to Anne Donovan on the 2008 Olympic gold medal team.
I know very little about the technical aspects of basketball. But I can ask a question as good as anyone in the business. And I trust his judgment. He will attend Sunday’s game at Penn State, the third straight UConn game he’s seen.
That’s good enough for me.
Coach Thibault on Stewie:
“I don’t think pro scouts look at Breanna Stewart with amazement; we’ve seen this in high school and as a college freshman. It’s more of an appreciation.”
“She has a maturity about her. She had that slump in the middle of the season, but kind of went with the flow and you saw what happened. She handled adversity pretty well. She stuck with it. Her coaches should get a lot of credit for helping her through the rough spots.”
“The first thing about her is that she is a young woman who, according to everyone that I have talked to, has worked on her craft since a young age. People that have seen her work out or play since high school tell me that she just seems to love the game. From what I can tell, she appears to be a gym rat.”
“We’re talking about a player who is tall and long-armed, a tremendous advantage for any player to have. And that gives her the opportunity to get to balls on the rim that other players can’t get to. And she is so athletic, has such superior arm extension, that it allows her to take jump shots against people her size with the confidence that is going to be able to get them off.”
“We saw her hit a couple of shots last night [at Maryland] with hands her face that some kids in college right now wouldn’t be able to get off. Those are gifts she has received [genetically]. And she also has the ability, likely obtained through her work ethic, to put the ball on the floor like a guard.”
“Nobody pidgeon-holed Breanna Stewart when she was a young player and demanded she be a post player, as if this is what a player of your size her size is supposed to do. Just think about this: She is the guard in the pick and roll with Stefanie Dolson.”
“I don’t think she’s a kid that you would want to become broader physically. She will get stronger, but I’m thinking it will be wiry strong. I don’t think [UConn would want to bulk her up. People always said the same thing about Kevin Durant; you know, how is his thin body going to hold up? Well, he’s gotten stronger without becoming wide-bodied in the process. She will strengthen her shoulders, likely her forearms, her calves and quadriceps.”