It was the first day of workouts for the East and West McDonald’s All-America girls teams for the game at the ATTACK center on the west side of Chicago early Monday morning and everyone was awaiting Breanna Stewart.
The 6-4 UConn-bound senior was scheduled to arrive later n the day after winning the NY State Federation Championship the day before with wins over powerhouse Nazareth Academy (Saturday) and Murry Bergtraum (Sunday) in the finals – both by double-digit margins for Cicero-North, NY No so. It was 10:30am and she slipped into the gym, got changed and jumped into practice fresh and ready.
Stewart jumped into the fray, going through the drills and offensive sets directed by Coach Ann Long (Spring Valley, Columbia, SC). No one expected Breanna be that fresh and ready after a dawn flight to get from Syracuse to Chicago. At the end of the practice time near noon Stewart was joined by fellow Philadelphia Belles travel teammate Brittney Sykes (Newark University, NJ-Syracuse) and East teammate Alexis Prince (Orlando Edgewater, FL-Baylor) working on dunking for the McDonald’s Sklll Contest later that evening. Both tried to make it with numerous tried but it was Stewart who managed a two-hand dunk caught by the camera of Mark Lewis.
Seven hours later, all three East team members who called upon again, this time on ESPN TV to try and make it happen again. Sykes and then Prince tried to get close to a jam but it was a no-go. The last of the female dunk contestants, Stewart, was able to master a two-hand dunk on her first shot and then followed with a one-handed dunk on the second. Two dunks, same contest – three for the day.
What made this achievement even more surprising is that the idea of a girl in the dunk contest went away in 2006 after the boys were upset when she won the contest with her one-handed dunk. It was big to see a girl do a boys power move. This time the boys embraced the idea of girls in the dunk contest. If there was anything that showed the fun, the camaraderie of these high school athletes it was how the crowd at the festooned University of Chicago Gerald Ratner Athletic Center high-five, fist-pumped and cheered for Stewart who was also named the McDonald’s Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
First day down, one more practice day, banquet and then the big 35th annual McDonald’s game – 11th annual girls game to play.
Mike Flynn is owner and operator of Blue Star Basketball and U.S. Junior Nationals. He is a National Evaluator and publishes the Blue Star Report which ranks the top 100 high school girls basketball players in the nation. He also serves as Secretary of the Middle Atlantic District AAU, National Chair for AAU Lacrosse, Consultant to Gatorade for girls basketball, member of the McDonald's All–American selection committee, & Consultant for Nike Global Basketball.