HARTFORD, Conn. - Katie Lou Samuelson's voice cracked with emotion.
But the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's junior All-American stayed strong Wednesday night as she spoke of former teammate Breanna Stewart's essay on The Players' Tribune website released Monday where Stewart admitted she had been sexually abused for two years starting when she was 9.
The essay is titled "Me Too," a nod to a social media movement started following abuse allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein.
"It's just something that's inspiring," Samuelson said. "The fact that she came out and shared that story with everyone is really something, especially at this time with this movement that's going on. She really is going to save lives and she's doing something that's really difficult. It's something that people need to hear.
"I'm proud of her as a friend, as a woman, as anything. To have been able to play with her and her being a great presence in my life ... This just shows her character even more for what she went through and for her still to be the person that she is today. It's amazing."
Stewart wrote that she was first molested at a relative's house and eventually told her parents, who called police. She said the man was arrested and confessed.
As tough as it was for Samuelson to talk about, reading the essay was equally hard.
"It was definitely emotional for me, especially being so close to her my freshman year," Samuelson said. "Stewie took me under her wing. She was that support system that I needed when I got here. So having to read that hit hard and hit deep."
Stewart wrote that her father, Brian, told her that what happened wasn't a "dirty little secret" and added when she was comfortable telling her story, it might save a life.
Former UConn teammate Kia Nurse called the essay "absolutely powerful."
"When you're able to have the courage to do that, I have the utmost respect for her and I'm so proud of her for being able to do that," the Huskies' senior added. "To have the courage to come out and help people who possibly have gone through the same situation is absolutely incredible.
"With where we are, the platforms we're able to build with fans and people in the larger basketball community, if you can use it in the right way it can be extremely powerful. That's exactly what she did."
Stewart, a native of North Syracuse, New York, led UConn to an unprecedented four consecutive national championships and was the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four all four times. She was a three-time national Player of the Year.
She was then the No. 1 pick in the 2016 WNBA Draft by the Seattle Storm and was the league's Rookie of the Year. She was a member of the United States national team that won the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Her coach with Team USA was her college coach - Geno Auriemma.
"When we talked about it a week or so before it was released - she let us know, she let a few of us know about it - you know, you don't really get the full picture," Auriemma said. "You don't really get the whole gist of everything until you read it. Then when you read it, it's different. It's different, it's pretty powerful. It's not easy to … It couldn't have been.
"Stewie's grown up a lot in the last couple years. Senior year, but then when she left, was out on her own and then living in China and then being in Seattle, being kind of on her own. I think she finally felt like a grown-up and could talk about something that was very, very, very personal. It was … You hear about it when it happens to adults and it makes you shake your head. But when it happens to kids. That's a whole other layer of difficulty.
"I'm proud of her. She's grown up a lot and she's going to be OK. She's going to be OK. She's going to be better than OK."
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and Women's Basketball Coaches Association, in collaboration with ESPN, announced the addition of four inaugural women's college basketball awards in a press release Thursday.
Similar to the men's awards which were introduced three years ago, the Hall of Fame and the WBCA will present an award honoring the best player at each of the five position.
In addition to the Nancy Lieberman Point Guard Award, which has been presented since 2000, there will be the Ann Meyers Drysdale Shooting Guard Award, Cheryl Miller Small Forward Award, Katrina McClain Power Forward Award, and Lisa Leslie Center Award.
Lieberman, Meyers Drysdale, Miller, McClain, and Leslie are all Naismith Hall of Fame members.
"The Basketball Hall of Fame is an institution that represents the entire game of basketball all over the world and at every level," Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame president John Doleva said in a statement. "The creation of these awards brings together the very best of the women's game, both Hall of Famers and the top student-athletes. We are excited to bring these awards to life and to present them in Columbus this coming Women's Final Four as a celebration of the continued growth of the women's game."
UConn has had four Lieberman Award winners as the nation's top point guard: Sue Bird (2000-02), Diana Taurasi (2003-04), Renee Montgomery (2009), and Moriah Jefferson (2015-16).
The winners of the five position player of the year awards, in addition to the Wade Trophy which is given to the WBCA Player of the Year, will be announced during ESPN2's telecast of the national semifinal games on Friday, March 30, 2018.