BRIDGEPORT, Connecticut -- Breanna Stewart didn't notice as coach Geno Auriemma gave his final instructions in the United States national team's locker room prior to its USA Basketball Showcase exhibition against Canada Friday night.
Then the introductions came and it was impossible to miss. Playing in the state where they became college legends, Auriemma started his five former UConn players -- Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore, Tina Charles and Stewart. It wasn't unusual for the Hall of Fame coach. In the exhibition against France at the University of Delaware on Wednesday night, he started local favorite and former Blue Hens' All-American Elena Delle Donne.
"That was really cool," Stewart said. "I didn't really realize it until they called out the starters. You heard the fans get louder and louder and louder. Coach obviously has his reason for that. It was cool to see everyone's reaction from it."
The fans were loudest when Stewart, who led the Huskies to their unprecedented fourth consecutive national championship four months ago, had her name called. They roared again when the North Syracuse, New York native addressed the crowd of 6,371 at Webster Bank Arena before the opening tip. She was also successful off the court Friday. Red USA t-shirts with Stewart's name and number 9 were sold out at a pair of concession stands.
The veterans noticed the reception.
"She did (get the biggest ovation), she did. But she'll become old news some day," Taurasi said with her biggest and best smile.
It was April 5 that Stewart shared a final hug with Auriemma and teammates Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck with 1:46 left of UConn's historic 82-51 rout of Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament final at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Olympian Stewart is hardly the same.
"We played France in 2014 in Turkey," Taurasi said. "Stewie ran down the court and she got hit in the chest and she stopped. [Wednesday night] the first possession she was in she got hit again by them and she ran right through it. That tells you the difference, one play like that. That's all you need to know."
Stewart is the youngest player on Auriemma's squad that will head to Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday for the 2016 Games. By the time she turns 22 on Aug. 27, she hopes to have added Olympic gold to her 2014 FIBA world championships gold and her unmatched college career.
The Americans begin pool play in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 7 against Senegal. Team USA has not lost a game at the Olympics since 1992, two years before Stewart was born.
"Stewie's completely different, completely different," Auriemma said. "She's one of them. She was in college before so I think she always felt that she had something to prove. The way she carries herself now, the way that she plays, the way that she practices, she walks around like she feels, 'I'm not only one of them, I'm better than some of them.' "
Stewart had five points in 15 minutes Friday night, making both of her shots from the floor after being limited by two early fouls as the Americans defeated Team Canada 83-43.
"There's a slight difference and it's the experience of knowing, having played with and against these players on this team and some we'll be playing against," Stewart said. "At UConn, I couldn't prepare as well as I could for that. I wasn't facing that every day."
She is facing it every day in the WNBA with the Seattle Storm.
Stewart is the leading candidate for Rookie of the Year honors and is putting Most Valuable Player-type numbers as the Storm contend for a playoff berth. The 6-foot-4 forward is fifth in the league in scoring (19.2), second in rebounds (9.3), third in blocked shots (2.1) and tops in minutes played (35.2).
"My comfort level with the Storm is getting better and better," Stewart said. "Having the opportunity to be on the court through the good and the bad helps. Knowing that the coaches and players have confidence in what I'm trying to do also helps."
On July 17, Stewart led a Seattle rally against the Chicago Sky from a 25-point deficit midway through the second quarter. A 3-pointer by Sue Bird with 18.9 seconds left tied it and the Storm were in position to pull off the greatest comeback in WNBA history. But Chicago now had the ball.
And the Sky have Delle Donne. The reigning WNBA MVP got the ball near the top of the key and Stewart had the defensive assignment.
"We had the opportunity to go to overtime or win the game," Stewart said. "Obviously the ball was going to her. They ran a set for her and there were 10 seconds left. I was trying to make her shoot the toughest shot she could possibly take. She takes a step-back 3 and she makes it. I was like, 'Aaahh.' All the work we did to come back and she knocks down this shot."
Welcome to the bigs.
Delle Donne and Stewart are teammates for the next four weeks as they and Brittney Griner are the first-time Olympians on the 2016 club. They are fitting in.
"Each day we're getting better and better," Stewart said. "I think that off the court, it definitely comes faster than on the court. People's personalities seem to just fit together. And with our limited court time, seeing what players like to do, what they don't like to do ... Some of us have played together on other national team tours in the fall, or world championships and that kind of thing.
"The biggest piece of advice has been to enjoy this and not taking it for granted. You don't know if it's going to happen again. On the court, almost everybody has been in this situation and they know the ropes."
After a slow start Friday night, the Americans broke it open with a 23-2 run. Lindsay Whalen had seven points and Delle Donne six off of the bench. Team Canada shot just 2-for-16 in the first quarter and the visitors needed almost four minutes to score in the second quarter as Team USA took a 28-6 lead.
It was 44-20 at halftime and the Canadians got no closer over the final 20 minutes.
"We wanted to get better than we were against France Wednesday night and we were," Auriemma said. "We were as good defensively as we could be with the amount of work that we've been able to put in. When you're good defensively, it leads to a lot of other things."
Delle Donne (12) and Whalen (11) joined Taurasi in double figures for Team USA. All 12 Americans hit the scoring column.
UConn junior guard Kia Nurse, who had 33 points against a USA team made up of collegians -- including Stewart and Jefferson -- at the 2015 Pan American Games final, was scoreless in 25 minutes Friday night with Taurasi doing a lot of the work against her on the defensive end. It was her second game since sports hernia surgery in the spring.
"They put pressure on you all over the floor and defensively they really get after it," said Nurse, who also received a loud ovation when announced in Team Canada's starting lineup. "They have such a good lineup that they're able to do that.
"Today was not a good day but we'll be better next time."
The Americans will wrap up play in the Showcase against Australia on Sunday at Madison Square Garden. Australia is also 2-0 in the event following its 76-67 win over France here Friday night.
Stewart, who won five gold medals with USA Basketball youth teams (ages 16-19), hopes to continue her winning ways in Brazil.
"I do try to be there to give her little advice here and there," Bird said. "But Stewie will have her own path."