STORRS, Conn. -- Breanna Stewart's summer schedule since the end of her freshman year at Cicero-North Syracuse High has included playing for USA Basketball.
This summer was no different as she represented her country at the Pan American Games. What was a bit different for the University of Connecticut senior standout was there was some vacation in her final academic summer.
"It was busy, but then again it wasn't," Stewart said. "I played USA Basketball but then I had the opportunity to go home and enjoy my family for a month, which usually doesn't happen. It gave me a chance to recover and get ready for a new season."
For the past month, she's been here with the Huskies taking part in preseason workouts. But USA Basketball is calling again. She's expected to take part in a 10-day European tour starting next week that will take coach Geno Auriemma and a group of senior national team pool players to Spain, Italy, and the Czech Republic for four games.
The two-time national Player of the Year will be back on campus in plenty of time for First Night festivities on Oct. 16 at Gampel Pavilion. The regular season opener is a month later -- Nov. 16 at Ohio State.
"This one is different," Stewart said. "We know what's at stake. We know we have an opportunity to do something that no one has ever done before in the women's game -- win four in a row.
"I think it's something that is going to motivate us even more, make sure we are ultra-focused whether it's individuals, practice or pickups. To do something that no one has ever done before, we're going to have to work harder than anyone has ever worked before."
Tennessee (1996-98) and UConn (2002-04 and 2013-15) have won three national championships in a row. The previous teams that went for a four-peat did not even got back to the Final Four.
The only three-time Final Four Most Outstanding Player in women's NCAA history, Stewart averaged 17.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 2.7 blocked shots as a junior in earning consensus Player of the Year honors. She'll enter her final season with 1,960 points, 856 rebounds, 288 blocked shots, and 279 assists. The 6-foot-4 forward is in line to become the sixth player in UConn's 1,000-point/1,000 rebound club with Rebecca Lobo, Jamelle Elliott, Tina Charles, Maya Moore, and Stefanie Dolson, and on pace to finish in the Top 5 all-time at UConn in points, rebounds, and blocked shots.
She'll enter the regular season having started UConn's last 84 games. The Huskies are 83-1.
And -- watch out -- she says she's "definitely" a better player than the one that walked off the court in Amalie Arena in Tampa with the national championship trophy almost six months ago.
"I would describe it as being smarter on the court," Stewart said. "Things are slower in my mind. I want to understand what the defense is doing, expect double teams and that kind of thing. I'm just trying to be as prepared as possible. And I'm still working on my ballhandling and that will always be a work in progress."
Part of her offseason was spent in Toronto at the Pan American Games. Playing five games in five days, Stewart -- who turned her right ankle 90 seconds into the tourney opener against Brazil -- led Team USA in scoring (18.6) and was second in rebounds (9.0) while sharing the lead in blocked shots (1.5) and steals (1.8).
Playing against other country's senior national squads, Stewart and fellow UConn senior All-American Moriah Jefferson guided Team USA to the final. But in the gold-medal game, Huskies' sophomore Kia Nurse torched the Americans for 33 points and host Canada won Pan-Am gold for the first time, 81-73.
"It was certainly different than being at UConn," Stewart said. "And it was different from the first time I was a part of it because that was when I was in high school. You have to learn to lead a team in different ways, especially with players you don't know that well. To play against other country's national teams was a great experience."
Stewart has six gold medals in eight competitions with USA Basketball. Her only misses are in Pan-Am play. In 2011, the first high school player to represent Team USA in the Games since Nancy Lieberman in 1975 averaged a double-double but the Americans failed to reach the medal round. Then there was the silver medal last July.
How about 2019?
"I'll think about doing it again in four years," Stewart said with a smile.
But before then, before her attempt to make the 2016 United States Olympic team, before it's expected she'll be the No. 1 overall pick by the Seattle Storm in next April's WNBA Draft, there's her senior year.
During the Huskies' recent trip to the White House, Auriemma said, "We'll see you next year" to President Obama.
That's what Stewart has in mind.
"We know this is going to be probably the hardest year we've had," Stewart said. "No one wants to see us do this besides us, and with that it brings out the competitive fire in all of us. We want to prove everyone wrong and show everyone that whether you want us to do it or not, we're going to do it."