It is not often that a group of middle school- and high school-aged girls basketball players get the chance to hear — in person or virtually — from an individual that has achieved championship-caliber goals on college and professional courts.
Such was the case recently for Milton-Freewater hoopsters — from Central Middle School eighth graders to McLoughlin High School seniors to-be — during a virtual question-and-answer period with Seattle Storm star Breanna Stewart, according to Mac-Hi head coach Chris Bryant.
Stewart — a WNBA Finals and league MVP, and a member of four NCAA Division I National Championship teams at the University of Connecticut — hosts an Instagram series titled “Around the Block.”
It focuses on promoting the women’s game and girls who play in general, Bryant said, “and figures out ways to get middle school and high school girls involved and excited.”
“Nothing was off limits,” Bryant said. “It was for anybody who wanted to be a part of it.”
Bryant, in his second year at Mac-Hi and a former junior varsity girls basketball coach at Walla Walla High School, said the idea’s inspiration resulted from his keeping tabs on Stewart.
“I followed her on Instagram when she first started,” Bryant said. “She posted she was doing Zoom meetings with girls basketball teams.”
Bryant went through the process — submitting information about his Lady Pioneers and Mac-Hi — prior to the late-spring meeting taking shape.
“I was ecstatic,” Bryant said of his feelings when informed that the meeting would be happening. “I have her jersey and been to some Storm games. I have followed her for a long time.”
Bryant stressed the meeting’s importance.
“A lot of our girls don’t follow women’s basketball,” Bryant said. “She (Stewart) has a list of accomplishments a mile long. That’s something I tried to get across to the girls. It was not an opportunity that comes along very often. I told them to take advantage of that and pick her brain.”
Bryant said the experience was a good one for those participating.
“It was a big life lesson for the girls in terms of not taking things for granted,” he said. “You don’t want to show up at any venue and not be prepared.
“It was held to help create excitement,” Bryant said. “Not to only grow the WNBA, but to grow the game overall.”