Breanna Stewart isn't just sitting on top of the basketball world, she is standing tall, all 6-foot-4 of her.
Yet the former University of Connecticut standout and the reigning WNBA Most Valuable Player remains committed to her mantra, humble and hungry, even after adding a second FIBA World Cup gold medal to her resume.
"It's just knowing that I can always get better," Stewart said Sunday. "Obviously I have won a lot, but my individual play can be better. That is what's exciting for me, knowing that I have been successful but knowing there's a lot I can improve on, too."
The thought that there's another level for the 24-year-old forward to reach is hard to believe the way she's played this summer and into the early fall.
Stewart had just 10 points and five rebounds Sunday for the United States senior national team, but it was more than enough as the Americans rolled past Australia 73-56 in Tenerife, Spain, to win their third straight World Cup title.
The North Syracuse, New York, native was named the event's MVP after averaging 16.3 points on 58.0 percent shooting, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.5 assists with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.0 in 26.8 minutes over five games.
"At the start of this year she really decided what she wanted to do with her basketball career," said Team USA point guard Sue Bird, also Stewart's teammate with the WNBA champion Seattle Storm. "She wanted to be an MVP. She wanted to win a championship. She wanted to come here and put her mark on USA Basketball. As a young player, that is not always easy but she did it.
"And listen, this kid played out of position this entire tournament. She was playing the three (small forward). That speaks volumes for somebody to be able to play out of position and still find a way to have an impact, a huge impact, an MVP-like impact."
The gold medal was Stewart's eighth in 10 events with USA Basketball, with the 2016 Olympics, the 2014 World Cup, the 2011 and 2013 FIBA U-19 world championships, the 2010 FIBA U-17 world championships, the 2012 FIBA Americas U-18 Championship, and the 2009 FIBA Americas U-16 Championship.
Her only misses came when she settled for silver at the 2015 Pan American Games and when the Americans didn't medal at the 2011 Pan Am games when she was the first USA high school player in 36 years to compete.
"Wearing a USA uniform is special for me because it's something that I've been doing since I was young," Stewart said. "Seeing the players that came before me, winning gold medals, it's always meant a lot to me."
When the Storm completed a WNBA Finals sweep of the Washington Mystics on Sept. 12, Stewart became the 11th player to win NCAA and WNBA and FIBA World Cup and Olympic gold medals. Also on that list are her fellow UConn alums Bird, Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore, Swin Cash, Asjha Jones, and Kara Wolters,
At age 24 years and 16 days, she was the third-youngest to accomplish it behind Moore (23 years, 2 months) and Bird (23 years, 11 months, 26 days).
"It means a lot to me, especially when you talk about the people that are on that list," Stewart said. "They have had very successful professional careers and I hope that I can get to that point in a few more years."
Bird became the first player to win four World Cup gold medals (2002, 2010, 2014, 2018) and five medals overall with her 2006 bronze. She averaged 4.0 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 4.8 assists with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 4,0 in 20,0 minutes per game. The Syosset, New York, native also smashed USA coach Dawn Staley's all-time career World Cup assists record in the process. She tied the mark of 103 by setting up a 3-point shot by Stewart and broke it with a pass that led to a Taurasi trey. Bird finished with five assists to bring her total to 107.
Taurasi and Bird were UConn teammates for two seasons until Bird graduated in 2002 and have played together for Team USA at every World Cup and Olympics since 2004.
"How do I talk about five World Cups, four gold medals in those five opportunities, and not talk about Diana," Bird said. "Not talk about a lot of the teammates I've played with, but in particular Diana. We've been doing this for so long. I've seen her carry us. I've seen her be everything, and I've just been there to kind of watch at times. It's been a lot of fun to watch her do what she does. So for her to help me get that, it is very fitting, because we've been doing this together. It'd almost be weird if she didn't, to be honest."
Team USA, with four ex-UConn players in the starting lineup, never trailed Sunday as back-to-backs threes by Stewart and Taurasi gave it a 10-0 lead. It was 35-27 at halftime and the Americans (6-0) iced it by scoring the first nine points of the third quarter. Griner had 15 points for Team USA while also holding Australia center Liz Cambage to just seven. The win assured Team USA a spot in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
The World Cup gold was the third for Taurasi and fellow UConn graduate Tina Charles. Morgan Tuck became the ninth ex-Husky star to get gold with her first senior national team appearance and title.
UConn coach Geno Auriemma guided Team USA to gold in 2010 and 2014.
Taurasi averaged 12.2 points and 3.7 assists in 21.8 minutes and joined Stewart on the event's All-Star Five. Charles checked in at 10.3 points and 7.3 rebounds in 20.0 minutes. Tuck averaged 2.5 points and 2.0 rebounds in 11.3 minutes off the bench.
Kia Nurse, a 2018 UConn graduate, averaged 18.2 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 2.7 assists in 31.0 minutes as Team Canada finished in seventh place in the 16-team field. The Canadians finished pool play unbeaten but lost to Spain in the quarterfinals.
Stewart will return to action when she takes the floor for 2018 EuroLeague third-place finisher Dynamo Kursk in Russia this winter. But first she'll enjoy the gold,
"It's not a bad way to cap things off," she said. "Now it is time for a little vacation."