For Seattle Storm rookie Breanna Stewart, it's a homecoming to the state where she won four NCAA championships as arguably the most decorated player in the University of Connecticut's recently storied women's basketball history.
But Stewart's return to the Nutmeg State might be overshadowed by the fact that both her Storm and the Connecticut Sun desperately need wins to turn around their slow starts. The opportunity is there for both teams, starting with their second meeting of the year on Friday night at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.
Seattle (3-5) is coming off an 86-78 home loss Sunday night to New York despite Stewart's game-high 17 rebounds, a franchise record for a rookie. Connecticut (1-7) has dropped six straight, the latest an 88-77 decision at home Sunday to Indiana, and is off to the worst start in franchise history.
Little surprise, then, that the Sun is marketing the return of Stewart to the place where she enjoyed nothing but success.
"First time coming back to Connecticut," Stewart told WNBA.com. "This was my home away from home, basically."
In her new digs, Stewart is enjoying a solid season, averaging 16.4 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.0 blocked shots per game. She compiled modest numbers of 11 points and five rebounds in the Storm's 93-81 verdict over the Sun on May 28 in Seattle.
Teammate Jewell Loyd fired in a game-high 26 that night and has been the Storm's top scorer this year at 18.1 ppg, connecting on nearly 50 percent of her shots from the field. Sue Bird and Alysha Clark are also in double figures for Seattle at 12.0 and 10.4 ppg, respectively.
But Seattle coach Jenny Boucek is looking for more consistency from her team, something she thought was lacking in the Sunday night loss.
"We weren't active and energetic the way we needed to be," Boucek said. "When you become mature in all of this as a team, you learn to play the way you need to play, whether you feel good or not."
The Sun is led by Jasmine Thomas at 11.3 points, 4.9 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game.