Breanna Stewart is among the best players in women’s basketball, and she never takes it for granted.
Connecticut’s star junior earned All-America honors from The Associated Press for the second straight season Tuesday. She was a unanimous choice for the second consecutive year.
“It means a lot because it means each season you’ve gotten better and been productive on the court,” Stewart said.
Notre Dame’s Jewell Loyd was also on all 35 ballots selected by the national media panel that votes in the weekly Top 25. It’s the eighth straight season with at least one unanimous choice. Voting was done before the NCAA tournament.
The two juniors are joined on the first team by South Carolina’s Tiffany Mitchell, Baylor’s Nina Davis and Minnesota’s Amanda Zahui B.
“We’ve grown up with each other, whether it’s been AAU or McDonalds or USA, we’ve seen each other and we have that sense of familiarity with each other,” Stewart said. “Even now, when we play against each other, I think we have a huge sense of respect for one another.”
This is only the second time since the AP started honoring All-Americans in 1996 there were no seniors on the team.
Loyd is the latest in a line of Notre Dame standouts.
“It’s great to be listed alongside those former Irish greats,” said Loyd, who earned the same honor as former teammates Skylar Diggins and Kayla McBride. “Pretty much for me, it was watching Sky and learning from her and watching Natalie Achonwa and learning from her. Seeing how hard they work helped make me better.”
The Irish’s star guard averaged 20.1 points this season.
Davis gave Baylor a first-team All-America player for the fifth straight season, joining former Lady Bears Brittney Griner and Odyssey Sims. The sophomore forward averaged 20.9 points and 8.2 rebounds this season.
“Growing up in high school, you watched the great players like Odyssey Sims, and you watched the Brittney Griners, and I can’t say that I ever imagined that I would be, my name would even be in conversation with theirs, and just to be able to be a sophomore and to be able to be an All-American is just a blessing,” Davis said.
While UConn, Notre Dame and Baylor have dominated the All-America teams the past few seasons, Mitchell became the first South Carolina player ever to earn that accolade. The junior guard averaged 14.3 points to help South Carolina win the SEC regular season and conference tournament titles.
“I think you have to start with one and I’m glad it’s someone like Tiffany Mitchell who puts the work in,” Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley said. “I’m hoping her teammates will see how hard she’s worked to put herself in this position and adhere to the amount of work that you need to put in to get these distinguished recognitions.”
No player had more of a meteoric rise this season than Zahui B. The 6-foot-5 sophomore center was fourth in the nation in rebounding and helped guide Minnesota to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009. She had one monster week in February when she combined for 66 points and 56 rebounds in two victories.
The native of Sweden was startled to learn she earned All-America honors.
“It’s top five? Oh, I didn’t know that. That’s awesome,” she said. “I’m kind of like speechless. That’s crazy.”
UConn teammates Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Moriah Jefferson were on the second team along with Elizabeth Williams of Duke, Brittany Boyd of California and Ohio State freshman Kelsey Mitchell.
The third team features Lexie Brown of Maryland, Samantha Logic of Iowa, Jillian Alleyne of Oregon, A’ja Wilson of South Carolina, Ruth Hamblin of Oregon State and Reshanda Gray of California.
Stewart, Loyd and Tiffany Mitchell were on the preseason team.
AP Basketball Writer Stephen Hawkins and AP Sports Writer Pat Eaton-Robb, Pete Iacobelli and Dave Campbell contributed to this story.
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