STORRS, Conn. - Breanna Stewart didn't need to announce her college decision on ESPN. She wasn't even on Twitter in January 2011. In fact, there wasn't an announcement at all. The news leaked out.
The North Syracuse, New York, native didn't need an audience or lights and cameras to sign her letter of intent 10 months later. She did it on the hood of her Honda CRV outside of her father Brian's office.
Today, the University of Connecticut's senior forward is the face of women's college basketball. She is a two-time national Player of the Year and All-American, and a three-time national champion and Final Four Most Outstanding Player. She is an academic All-American as well.
What a difference four years make? Well, not exactly.
"Sure she's more mature because we're older," UConn forward Morgan Tuck said. "But she's the same person and that speaks volumes about her. A lot of people in her position, getting all this attention and Player of the Year and MVPs, would change. She's not about the media hype and attention. She gets it because she deserves it. She's not interested in it. She doesn't want the spotlight but she's in it because she's a great player. Really, she's the same Bre that I've known since I was 15 or 16."
But as humble as Stewart is off the court, there's a confidence on it that few have.
While every player who chooses an elite college program like UConn, Tennessee, or Notre Dame hopes to win four national championships, Stewart stated before she arrived here that was what she wanted.
"My rationale was like anyone else's," Stewart said. "I'm coming here for four years. Why wouldn't I want my goal each year to be to win the national championship? I wasn't afraid to say it. When I was a freshman it was a lofty expectation when you haven't won one. I had confidence in what we wanted to do and look at where we are."
Top-ranked UConn begins its bid for an unprecedented fourth straight NCAA crown Monday when it visits No. 6 Ohio State.
"On the court is where you need to show the most confidence," Stewart said. "I don't think that I'm a cocky person, per se, but I know what I'm good at and I'm comfortable in doing that. I'm not going to shy away from that. I'm just not going to do that. I guess you would call it an edge.
"I've always wanted to succeed, do the best that I can, and win. That's always been the case since I was young. I'm glad that I have that edge. But when I'm off the court, I'm able to relax and just be nonchalant."
She's never been one to wear her emotion on her sleeve.
There have been times that she'll block a shot and give an opponent an ice-cold stare. Against Notre Dame late in the first half of the 2013 Final Four semifinals at New Orleans Arena, she nailed a 3-pointer from the corner and on her way back on defense clapped and smiled. For her, it was almost an outburst.
After the Huskies' loss at Stanford a year ago, her anger came through in her words in the postgame press conference.
"I'm not so sure it's as different as you think," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "That whole being really edgy and that kind of mentality that we associate with that, that's not always there on the court. That's one of the things we have talked about a lot. And off the court, it's not Little Orphan Annie either. She's got a little edginess to her off the court where you pull her aside and go, 'Close the door. Let me talk to you.'
"I don't know if Stewie's true personality ever comes out. She doesn't give you a lot to work with. She keeps it to herself and hopes playing will be enough. It's already there, why do we have to talk about it? If people want to say that she's the best player in the country there's a lot to base that on. I don't know if she has to go around saying it."
The fact is, she doesn't go around saying it. When she was named the Final Four MOP for the third time last April, the first woman so honored, there were tears in her eyes as she told the crowd at Tampa's Amalie Arena the award should have gone to her UConn teammate, Moriah Jefferson.
Being cocky is not in her DNA.
"I've never acted like that," Stewart said. "My parents would not let me. If I ever did … When I was younger I was very shy on the court. I just did my business. I think I show more emotion now than ever. I'm not one to rub anything in anyone's face. If I'm better than you then I will show you on the court.
"When others act out like that, when you see it, when I see it, it's like, 'Why are you doing that? What are you trying to prove to people?' Usually it's because they want attention whether it's good or bad or indifferent. Usually the people that do that, you can't change them."
Since Stewart, Tuck, and Jefferson arrived at UConn, the Huskies are 113-5 overall including 84-1 since losing the 2013 Big East Tournament final to Notre Dame. While her career has been memorable, there is one of those 118 games she would like to forget.
On Feb. 18, 2013, UConn hosted Baylor at the XL Center. Stewart had no points, no rebounds, no assists, and no blocked shots in a 76-70 loss. When Auriemma was asked about her playing only seven minutes, he replied she played that much because he couldn't get her off the floor fast enough. Stewart met her father afterwards. For the only time after a game, she cried.
"Sometimes I let my emotions get the best of me," Stewart said. "It was different because I felt that if I had any kind of impact in that game, it would have been a different result. That was the first time I felt that I could have changed the outcome of the game. I've lost games before, but usually I'd given my best. That game …
"It is what it is, and it was a learning point in my career. There's always going to be a bumpy road somewhere."
She hopes that her final journey that starts in Columbus on Monday ends on April 5 in Indianapolis. Later in April, the Seattle Storm figure to take her with the first selection of the 2016 WNBA Draft.
In a perfect storm, she'll be named to the Auriemma-coached United States Olympic team that will compete in Rio de Janeiro. She already owns a gold medal from the 2014 FIBA world championships.
She is taking nothing for granted.
"Stewie comes in and she knows she's targeted and people are going to come at her," Jefferson said. "She works harder than ever now because of that."
Stewart will tell anyone that she has changed over four years at UConn. What she doesn't want to change is how the Huskies have ended their season.
She believes she has saved her best season for last.
"I've had three seasons with perfect endings," Stewart said. "You can't complain when you win a national championship. We have an opportunity to do something that no one else has done. In doing that, we want it to be the best one ever. We know it's there. We know what's at stake. But now we have to focus on winning one.
"I want to be remembered as someone who is ultra competitive and wants to do whatever is best for the team. Helping lead my team, each team, to a national championship, it's never been done here, it's never been done anywhere. A lot of people ask the legacy question. That's for other people to determine. I'm just here."