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Breanna Stewart talks Geno Auriemma, pressure and sacrifices with The Starting Five

Set Free Richardson and Jadakiss welcomed the WNBA superstar to The Compound to chop it up in the latest episode of The Starting Five.

Breanna Stewart is one of the top names in the WNBA, has her own signature sneaker and just came off a first season in New York where she led the Liberty to a berth in the WNBA Finals.

Breanna stopped by The Compound for an in-depth conversation with Set Free Richardson and Jadakiss on the latest episode of The Starting Five on DraftKings Network.

After a little talk about the aesthetic of The Compound and signing some championship jerseys, Breanna says her love of the game came from her dad. Breanna says she met many friends watching her dad hoop in pickup games in the Y and then roles reversed as he came and watched her and spoke to the old folks while she balled out.

As for when things clicked, Breanna notes that she was 6-foot-2 in eighth grade (she’s 6-foot-4 now) and she says she didn’t understand her body and controlling everything. She was long, lanky and very skinny, but she says her best attributes were defense, blocking shots and rebounding and everything else came after. It was her time on the AAU and EYBL circuit that made her realize she was getting noticed and that led to attention from colleges and the opportunity to play for USA Basketball on the junior national team. She went from her local Syracuse team to this big thing and life got a little bit crazy.

Speaking of AAU, Set Free asks if AAU takes away from outside/pickup/streetball world. Breanna says you’re not getting together as randomly or sporadically as just going to the park and you definitely miss some different kind of competitiveness and being outside creating it yourself. But she notes that AAU is important because of the structure and connection to colleges, but at the same playing outside without a system is important as well.

Jadakiss reveals that it was a dream of his to go play for Syracuse, where Breanna grew up, and play for Jim Boeheim. So what sent her to play at former Orange nemesis UConn?

Breanna says Syracuse recruited her and offered a scholarship and it was hard for her. She says she could have been playing at home, but on the other hand, she had the opportunity to play what she calls the best program ever, playing for the best coach. She says she realized all these doors were opening for her and she wanted to go where she would be the best and learn how to be the best and where she would get prepared for anything that would be thrown at her.

Jada had to know: Was it like playing for Geno Auriemma? Breanna said it was good and it was crazy. Looking back now, she says it was the best thing she could have done for her career. At 17, in the moment, though, she thought “this sucks, I can’t do anything right.” The coaches at UConn, she says, taught her to be better in every aspect. Arriving at UConn, she thought she was working hard, but they showed her how to reach another level. Her freshman year was one of the hardest things that she had to go through because it was so much of a roller coaster journey.

Jada compares Geno to that uncle that you hate when you’re younger but then turns into your favorite uncle when you’re older. Breanna admits that she thought at first, “How am I going to do this for four years?” but admits that since she’s left she misses it.

Jada wants to know about the pressure of being the face of the WNBA, having her own signature shoe and being everywhere. Breanna says the pressure has been there for a while, whether it be coming out of high school as the No. 1 recruit, going to UConn and wanting to win four national titles and then doing it, or being the No. 1 pick in the WNBA Draft. So, as she continues to evolve on and off the court it’s about how she’s comfortable in that and knowing she has an incredible platform and a spotlight on her and how can she be great night in and night out.

But does greatness and winning require a certain selfishness and what are the sacrifices you have to make? Breanna says she knows that she misses things so she can be great. But she also knows that if she doesn’t do what is needed to stay great she’ll have guilt knowing she’s not giving it her all and tapping into her potential.

She says you play in the WNBA and then you play overseas, so you miss holidays, you miss Christmas and birthdays, so that’s tough. When you think about it in perspective, you want to be around your people because you never know what’s going to happen. But her circle keeps her focused and they know that her window and her career is so short and she wants to make sure she can do everything she can.

For more of the conversation with Breanna Stewart check out the full interview below. For more of The Starting Five, you can tune in every Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET on DraftKings Network on Samsung TV Plus, Roku, Xumo Play or here on! Learn more about how to watch here.


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