Breanna Stewart of the Seattle Storm dribbles up the court in a WNBA preseason game in May against the Phoenix Mercury. Stewart will return to the U.S. from China after spraining the posterior cruciate ligament in her right knee last week while playing for Shanghai in the Chinese basketball league. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

Storm star Stewart returning to U.S. to rehab injured knee

NEW YORK — Breanna Stewart is returning to the U.S. from China to rehab her knee.

The Seattle Storm star sprained the posterior cruciate ligament in her right knee last week while playing for Shanghai in the Chinese basketball league. The injury won’t require surgery and she planned to fly back Friday.

“It’s nothing major but it’s still an issue, I guess,” Stewart told The Associated Press by phone Sunday night from Shanghai. “It’s perfect timing at least. You don’t ever want to get injured. I had an MRI and it showed the PCL injury. The plan right now is to go back to the U.S. and do rehab and then come back for the playoffs.”

Her Chinese team finished second and the league’s playoffs begin in early February. The team is on a break until the playoffs.

“We are in close communication with Breanna and the medical team overseeing her rehab,” Seattle Storm president and general manager Alisha Valavanis said. “Breanna has our ongoing support as she recovers.”

Stewart has been on the go since her senior season at UConn last year. She helped the Huskies win a fourth consecutive NCAA title last April and then went first in the WNBA draft to Seattle. She was the league’s rookie of the year and also helped the U.S. win a sixth consecutive gold medal at the Olympics in August.

The three-time AP women’s basketball Player of the Year headed to China soon after the Storm were eliminated from the playoffs.

“I haven’t had any break,” Stewart said. “Maybe it’s a sign my body’s saying I’m a little tired. So now a break is coming. It was supposed to be coming after the China playoffs finished.”

Stewart said she’s never really been injured before.

“I rolled my ankle before but nothing with the knees, knock on wood,” she said. “Fortunately I won’t need surgery, I just need to get stronger and get it fixed.”

Before the injury, which happened Jan. 7, Stewart was enjoying her first season in China on and off the court. She was averaging 31.4 points and 10.1 rebounds. She’s been filming a web-based reality series that will debut on her Facebook page this week.

“It’s been great. Shanghai is such an Americanized city and so welcoming to foreigners,” she said. “It’s been great getting to know the team and the coaching staff and players. Time really has flown by as I’ve been here for nearly four months and it doesn’t feel like it’s been that long.”

Stewart said she has learned a few Chinese words and has been provided a translator by the team.

“It’s great to have the translator, but when I’m out doing stuff, I’m sometimes on my own,” she said. “It’s nice sometimes people recognize me when I’m around campus where the facilities are. I’ve even had people come up to me and say they went to UConn. Talk about a small world.”

Stewart has been following the Huskies from afar. She wasn’t able to watch their record-breaking 91st consecutive win Saturday because it was 4 a.m. in China when UConn played.

“I’m really proud of them and happy for them,” Stewart said. “To see them doing what everyone thought they wouldn’t be doing is special. Everyone thought that they’d struggle early on.”

She’s proud to be linked with the streak, having helped the Huskies win the first 75 games. How far can the streak go?

“The way they are playing right now, I wouldn’t bet against them,” Stewart said. “A 150- or 200-game winning streak would be crazy.”

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