Breanna Stewart is on her way to the University of Connecticut in 2012.
The 6-3 Cicero-North Syracuse girls basketball junior, considered the top player in her class in the United States in some recruiting circles, made a verbal commitment to UConn head coach Geno Auriemma Monday night while attending the team's victory over Duke at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs.
While the formal letter of intent will not be signed until next year, Stewart, who has 1,447 career points at CNS, said she wanted to get this highly-anticipated decision out of the way early, as she chose the Huskies over other high-profile programs like Tennessee, Duke and Penn State.
The pursuit of Stewart had included visits to Central New York from high-profile coaches like Auriemma, who attended a CNS game in Utica in mid-December, and Tennessee coach Pat Summitt. Both are enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
UConn has won seven national championships since 1995, including the last two, and broke the NCAA basketball record for consecutive victories set by UCLA's men's team in the early 1970s when it won 90 straight games before losing to Stanford late in December.
Stewart led CNS to back-to-back Section III Class AA titles in 2009 and 2010, and is heavily favored to do so again this year. For the season, Stewart has averaged 24.4 points per game, and her ability to block shots, rebound and even hit the occasional 3-pointer helped her profile increase dramatically over the past two years.
As a result, Stewart got invited to participate on USA Basketball's Under-16 and Under-17 national teams each of the the last two summers, both times playing key roles as Team USA won gold medals in a North American tournament in 2009 in Mexico and the 2010 World Championships in France.
And Stewart is not the only CNS player heading to a Division I program in New England. Senior point guard Kelsey Mattice signed her letter of intent to attend the University of Maine last November.
In the first game following Stewart's announcement, she had 30 points, more than the opposition, as CNS ripped Baldwinsville 64-28 Thursday night at the Baker High School gym. The Northstars, no. 7 in the latest state Class AA rankings, improved to 13-2 on the season.