Stewart hopes to play for USA hoops in February

LAS VEGAS -- Breanna Stewart is hoping to be ready by February to play with USA Basketball in the Olympic qualifying tournament.

That would be about 10 months after she ruptured her right Achilles tendon while playing in the EuroLeague Women's championship in April.

"I'm trying to be back to play in February," Stewart told The Associated Press on Friday. "Even if I can't play, I want to be there to work out and be with the team."

Stewart, who has never spent this much time off the court, said her rehab has been going great.

"It's been 13 weeks, and I'm progressing really well. It's a long, tedious process. I went to go see my surgeon a week ago, and he's really happy how things are going," she said. "I couldn't have asked for my Achilles tendon to repair better, so that's great."

Assuming her rehab continues to progress at its current rate, she expects to start doing work on the court in October or November. While she is improving physically, Stewart knows she'll have to clear a mental hurdle, as well.

"Right now, I'm good; but once I'm able to start back on the court, it will be interesting," she said. "I hurt myself doing a one-dribble pull-up. How many times have I done that? The first time, will I be scared? Probably. It's something that will take a lot of repetitions to get rid of."

The reigning WNBA MVP also said she has been talking to Kevin Durant, who ruptured his Achilles tendon last month in the NBA Finals.

"I reached out to him a few days after," she said. "The first few days are a blur and you don't want to talk to anybody. Your whole world just got flipped. I reached out to him. It's nice to have someone to talk to like that. Right now, we're the only two people going through this kind of thing at this level. It's crazy it happened to both of us and our games are so similar. We have each other to give advice and go off; I'm eight weeks ahead of him. I tell him what's coming and what to expect."

Stewart said she was more emotional seeing Durant go down then when she got hurt.

"When it happened, it was horrible," she said of Durant's injury. "I know how awful those first few weeks were. I knew right away he did it because he checked; you're not checking for anything else."

While Stewart has missed playing, she has been able to keep herself occupied through rehab and serving as an ambassador for the WNBA. The league, which will hold its All-Star Game on Saturday in Las Vegas, is paying her in excess of the roughly $65,000 base salary she would have made with the Seattle Storm this season.

"There's a schedule that's starting to be fine-tuned," she said of her ambassador responsibilities. "A lot of things I'll be at this weekend. Few of the morning things today I didn't go to because I was sick. I'll be at fanfest tomorrow instead."

Stewart also said she planned to attend Kobe Bryant's Mamba Sports Academy in Southern California and the Jr. NBA event.

"You never want to be injured, but this way at least we can make a difference off the court," she said. "It helps us, it helps the league. It's tough not to be able to play, but at least you can be around. I know that I have more purposes than what I do on the court. The league wants to continue to be there for the youth, and so do I."