She’s determined. She’s focused. She hates losing.
And she was just named Gatorade State Player of the Year for Washington, D.C., (again), making her a finalist for the 2020-21 national player of the year award.
When asked who she is on the court, UConn women’s incoming basketball guard Azzi Fudd says, “I would say I’m really aggressive. I love to score, but most of all, I love to win. So I’m going to do whatever it takes to win. Whether it’s me scoring someone else scoring, playing good defense, whatever it is.”
Named after Hall of Fame player Jennifer Azzi, basketball insiders have often predicted that Azzi Fudd, 5-11, is going to change the game of college basketball – and ultimately the WNBA.
To Azzi, hearing that is motivating. “I take that as a compliment. I’m really grateful that people see me like that. But I also see that as I have to keep working hard if I want to see that come true. I really want to be able to change the game. I gotta keep staying hungry, can’t be satisfied” she says.
She was only 12 years old when she received her first scholarship offer, from the University of Maryland. And she was only 15 when she was one of the first two girls invited to Stephen Curry’s SC30 Select Camp for the country’s top basketball players – outscoring the best boys’ prospects.
“She can be going full speed, and stop on a dime and have, like, a feathery release. I think she has more of a textbook jumper than anyone I’ve seen,” Curry told ESPN.
Azzi says her experience was eye-opening. “It was amazing. I won’t forget my time there,” she says. Having made a lot of friends during the two times she attended, Azzi says she was excited to see 5 of the friends she made in camp get drafted to the NBA.
“To build relationships with some of the top basketball players, and then get to meet and see Steph Curry,” was amazing, she says. Azzi appreciates that Curry did more than host the camp from afar. “He worked with us, he did drills with us, he played up and down with us. I thought that was really cool. That made him an even cooler person and athlete to me. The talent in that gym, all that knowledge I got from that camp was also amazing.”
Off the court, Azzi, a five-star recruit, is a fun person to be around. She goes with the flow. And she’s always eating. “My brothers might say otherwise, but I think I’m a lot of fun,” she says, adding that she’s “goofy and loving.”
The day before the interview for this profile, Azzi put on a concert for her brothers. “I don’t think they enjoyed it very much,” she says, “but I definitely enjoyed singing to them.”
And her personality also showed when her dog, Stewie, made an appearance in her commitment announcement. (Stewie is named after a former UConn player.)
When asked why she chose UConn, Azzi says, “What is there not to like about UConn? How can you say no to UConn?”
The UConn coaches are reason behind her decision. “Coach Auriemma has shown, time and time again, how he is, if not the best, one of the best coaches to coach women’s basketball, and I know he’ll be able to get the most out of me and I’ll be able to learn so much from him and the rest of staff, and then being surrounded by other great players will push me day in and day out of practice and games.”
UConn is also close to home for Azzi, whose family lives in Virginia. And some of her closest friends attend as well, including Uconn guard Paige Bueckers, who Azzi met on the USA team. “I hadn’t met her before that, and now I can’t get rid of her, she won’t leave me alone,” she says jokingly. (Azzi and Paige are good friends.)
As a St. John’s College High School sophomore guard in 2019, Azzi tore her ACL and MCL in her right knee. “That definitely is the biggest obstacle I’ve had to face,” she says. “Sprained ankles are nothing compared to this.”
Azzi is motivated by trying to be the best in basketball. “I love just getting better. I love expanding my game,” she says, adding that she’s also motivated by her parents.
Her parents are her inspiration, especially her mother, Katie Smrcka-Duffy Fudd, a Georgetown star drafted by the Sacramento Monarchs. “I love watching the few videos that we have of her playing,” Azzi says. Her dream is to play for the WNBA and compete in the Olympics to become an Olympic gold medalist.
Azzi’s advice to girls who want to play basketball: “Work hard. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. If they do, use that as motivation.”
Athletes should also figure out if they’re really serious about the sport, she says. “Because if you are, you need to be ready to make some sacrifices.” Azzi herself has had to make sacrifices. “Social sacrifices mostly, especially when you’re young. I could give you countless sleepovers and birthday parties that I missed, and I cried about it. But looking back, I’m so much more happy that I went to that tournament and had those practices.”
Azzi, who used to play with President Joe Biden’s daughter on the same AAU team, shares that President Biden attended a few of their games. “We went to his house in Delaware and we had lunch with him,” she says. “I’m really happy for their entire family,” Azzi says of President’s Biden election win. And on Vice President Kamala Harris, she says, “Just to have a female up there, and especially a black female, that gave a good ending to the year.”
Azzi’s favorite music genre is hip hop. And something her fans may not already know about her. “In the summer, when I’m in Minnesota with my mom’s side of the family, then I’ll listen to some country,” she says.
And her favorite food? “I love strawberries and Nutella,” she says. “I have one of those tubs of Nutella … I got so much Nutella for my birthday.”