Breanna Stewart has always known that team success will lead to individual honors. It was true at the University of Connecticut and now in the WNBA.
Stewart, in her third season with the Seattle Storm, was named the WNBA's Most Valuable Player on Sunday. She is the fourth former UConn star to win the honor joining Diana Taurasi (2009), Tina Charles (2012), and Maya Moore (2014). Only Southern California and Tennessee has had as many as two winners.
The 6-foor-4 forward from North Syracuse, New York, received 33 of 39 first-place votes from a national panel of sportswriters and broadcasters and totaled 372 points. Dallas Wings center Liz Cambage finished second with 231 points with four first-place votes. Washington Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne received the other two first-place votes and was third with 206 points. Players were awarded 10 points for a first-place vote, seven points for a second-place vote, five points for a third-place vote, three points for a fourth-place vote, and one point for a fifth-place vote.
Stewart ranked second in the league in scoring (career high 21.8), third in rebounding (8.4), seventh in blocked shots (1.44), and eighth in steals (1.35) and established career highs in field goal percentage (52.9) and 3-point field goal percentage (41.5) while shooting 82.0 percent from the foul line.
The Storm went a league-best 26-8 during the regular season and earned the No. 1 seed for the playoffs. Seattle hosts Taurasi and the Phoenix Mercury in Game 1 of the best-of-five semifinal series Sunday.
Stewart was the overall No. 1 pick by the Storm in the 2016 WNBA Draft after leading the Huskies to an unprecedented four consecutive national championships and was named the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player four times. She was a three-time All-American and national Player of the Year.
She becomes the eighth player to be the WNBA's Rookie of the Year and an MVP -- joining Taurasi, Charles, Moore, Delle Donne, Tamika Catchings, Candace Parker, and Nneka Ogwumike -- and the second MVP from the Storm, joining three-time winner Lauren Jackson (2003, 2007 and 2010).
If Seattle wins the WNBA crown, Stewart will become the 11th player to own NCAA and WNBA titles along with Olympic and FIBA world championship gold medals. That list includes six former Huskies -- Taurasi, Moore, her Seattle teammate Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Asjha Jones, and Kara Wolters.
Taurasi (48 points) was fifth in the MVP voting. UConn graduate Tiffany Hayes of Atlanta was sixth (46 points) as she sparked the Dream to the playoff No. 2 seed and a semifinal spot against Washington. Moore (8 points) was ninth and Bird (4 points) 12th.
Bird was also honored Sunday as she was selected as the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award recipient for the second straight year and third time overall.
The Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award is presented each season to a player who exemplifies the ideals of sportsmanship on the court, including ethical behavior, fair play and integrity. The award is named for the late Kim Perrot, who helped guide the Houston Comets to their first two WNBA championships before passing away in August 1999 after a seven-month battle with cancer.
The Syosset, New York, native received 16 votes. The Chicago Sky's Courtney Vandersloot finished second with five votes, while Delle Donne, the Connecticut Sun's Jasmine Thomas and Atlanta's Elizabeth Williams tied for third with four votes each.
Bird, the WNBA's all-time assists leader, has spent her entire 16-year career with the Storm, who took her with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 WNBA Draft after she was the consensus national Player of the Year at UConn during its 39-0 national championship season. Bird was named an All-Star for a record time and eclipsed DeLisha Milton-Jones' mark for career games played (508).
The Storm point guard averaged 10.1 points and a career-high 7.1 assists during the 2018 regular season.