Stewart AP preseason All-American for third straight year
Breanna Stewart is now part of an elite group - just the fourth player to be chosen as a unanimous preseason Associated Press All-American twice.
The UConn star senior joined Maya Moore of Connecticut, Alana Beard of Duke and Brittney Griner of Baylor.
''That's great company to be in,'' Stewart said. ''To be named with those players is humbling since they've had so much success.''
Stewart has already accomplished more than those three in college, winning national championships in her first three years. She'll try for an unprecedented fourth title this season.
Accompanying Stewart on the preseason All-America team Tuesday were teammate Moriah Jefferson, South Carolina's Tiffany Mitchell, Baylor's Nina Davis and Ohio State's Kelsey Mitchell. The five players were chosen by a 32-member national media panel.
It's the third straight year that two UConn players were on the preseason team. Stewart did it the last two years with Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis. Stewart and Jefferson are the eighth set of teammates to be preseason All-Americans.
''It's awesome to be able to share the success with your teammate,'' Stewart said. ''Individual awards are nice, but when you can share it with your teammate that's something that not a lot of people are able to do.''
The 6-foot-4 senior, who averaged 17.6 points and 7.8 rebounds last year, became the seventh player to earn preseason All-America honors three times. Beard, Moore and Griner all did it as well as Tennessee's Chamique Holdsclaw and Tamika Catchings and Oklahoma's Courtney Paris.
Ohio State's Kelsey Mitchell may join that group in two years. The sophomore is coming off a stellar freshman season when she averaged 24.9 points for the Buckeyes, who are ranked sixth in the preseason poll.
''It's a great honor,'' Ohio State's playmaker said. ''To be mentioned with the top players in the country is humbling. My teammates and I have high expectations for this season and they pushed me to work hard this summer. We can't wait to get the season started.''
The Buckeyes have a tough schedule to open the season, playing at No. 2 South Carolina on Friday before hosting top-ranked UConn on Nov. 16.
Ohio State will have to figure out a way to slow down Tiffany Mitchell in the opener. The two-time preseason All-American is coming off a season when she averaged 14.4 points to help the Gamecocks reach the Final Four.
''It means a lot, growing up as a kid you want to put your best foot forward and take those steps in your career,'' the South Carolina senior said. ''Knowing that some of the hard work is paying off is definitely a good feeling.''
While it's Mitchell's second consecutive year as an All-American, Davis earned the honors for the first time. The Lady Bears junior forward averaged 21.1 points and 8.3 rebounds last season while shooting 58 percent from the field.
''It's unreal,'' Davis said of being one of the five best players in the preseason. ''You have dreams growing up of playing on the national level, who would imagine that someday you'd say I was one of the five best players in the country? It's a blessing that I can be named with Breanna Stewart and Tiffany Mitchell among others.''
Jefferson is also a first-timer to the team. She averaged 12.4 points and 4.9 assists for UConn while shooting nearly 59 percent from the field in guiding the Huskies to a third straight championship last season.
''It's definitely a challenge,'' Jefferson said. ''When you see a player and it says `All-American' before their name, people want to prove something against them. But it's not something that you focus on. Honestly, I'm just worried about our team and going out there every night and performing to the best of my abilities.''
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