By age 14, expectations and pressure were already rising for basketball star Azzi Fudd.
Her first Division I offer had just come in and some of the comparisons drawn to her game were astounding. Some pundits saw her as the next Maya Moore, others said Diana Taurasi – a high bar for a teenager who had yet to take driving lessons.
On Wednesday, Fudd - now a high school senior at St. John's College High School in the District - took the next step toward joining the Moores and Taurasis of the women’s basketball world. The consensus No. 1 recruit of the 2021 class is heading to their alma mater to play for Hall-of-Fame coach Geno Auriemma.
Every step along the way of her career, Fudd has taken the path of a prodigy. Both her parents played the game. Her mom, Katie, played college basketball at North Carolina State and Georgetown and made it to the WNBA, her dad, Tim, played college hoops at American.
As a sophomore at St, John's, Fudd was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year. She’s part of the Team USA system and has competed internationally on the U-16 and U-17 teams.
Throw in her composure, her maturity and how she’s handled the national attention that comes with being a young phenom and Fudd has all the makings of the next great face of college basketball.
“For all her talent that she displays on the court, she's equally, if not greater, just a really good, solid quality human being,” St. John’s head coach Jon Scribner told NBC Sports Washington. “Sweet as can be, she's a great teammate, extremely unselfish. She's extremely thoughtful. She's playful, doesn't carry any attitude with her. Pretty rare to have all of those pieces be sort of in the A+ category.”
With all the pomp and circumstance that’s followed her, even after a devastating ACL and MCL injury, it’s only natural Fudd chose UConn. She had great options. Fudd picked the Huskies over other national contenders, including the hometown Maryland Terrapins, the Louisville Cardinals and UCLA Bruins.
Maryland and Brenda Frese were the first to make a scholarship offer when Fudd was in sixth grade. Others soon followed giving her plenty of time to make a decision.
While UConn is UConn, other programs offer great opportunities to shine at the national level as well. There are plenty of examples: Sabrina Ionescu at Oregon, Kelsey Plum at Washington and Arike Ogunbowale at Notre Dame.
Ultimately, Connecticut was the chosen landing spot where Fudd will play with good friend Paige Bueckers, the consensus No. 1 recruit from the 2020 class. Together they will try to live up to legendary UConn players like Taurasi, Moore, Rebecca Lobo, Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart, Tina Charles, Nykesha Sales and so many others. Unless you win a national championship - the Huskies have 11 of them since 1995 - it's hard to crack that group.
"It was a really hard decision to make once I got down to it," Fudd said on ESPN's Instagram live. "I had the chance to visit some beautiful campuses and build amazing relationships with other schools. It was really tough, but I know that I want to be somewhere that I'm gonna be proud of the next four years."
And when she steps onto the Storrs campus next fall, the 5-foot-11 guard will be the same competitor and teammate that she has her entire life. Humble, passionate and a leader, one that you simply don’t just stumble across often.
“As much attention as she's been getting and has gotten you wouldn't tell,” Scribner who has known Fudd for a decade, said. “She is as humble as they get. Her style of play, we even sometimes wanted to be more selfish on the court than she is.”
Following in the footsteps of the other greats to the Huskies is just what elite players do in women’s basketball. There’s no doubt Fudd has a chance to be another one celebrated in the UConn rafters.