For decades, the DMV has been a hotbed for basketball talent. From Kevin Durant to Victor Oladipo to Rebekkah Brunson, the region has been home to some of the world's best basketball players, and that doesn't look to end anytime soon. So, who's next? Throughout the week, NBC Sports Washington will answer that question, taking look at the next crop of players creating a buzz in the DMV.
Azzi Fudd entered high school with a level of expectation reserved for the likes of LeBron James, and to this point, as was the case with the King, she’s found a way to meet it.
“Coming in with a big reputation… I never really think about that stuff,” Fudd told NBC Sports Washington. “I think the articles and what people say about me is amazing, and it’s a blessing to be where I am, but I see that as a way to push myself. I don’t want to just be somebody who was just good in middle school, or just good my freshman year.
“I use that as motivation to keep getting better, to keep improving and shocking people.”
Fudd is the consensus No. 1-ranked girls basketball player in the nation for the class of 2021. The silky-smooth guard has mastered the mid-range game, routinely finishes through contact at the basket and is capable of pulling up from the opponents’ parking lot -- while shooting a high percentage doing so.
Fudd has been a high achiever from an early age. She earned her first offer from the University of Maryland as a sixth grader. She first landed a spot with USA Basketball’s U16 team at the age of 14 -- she was the youngest to do so -- and went on to capture the 2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championship gold medal. She was also the youngest member of the 2018 USA U17 World Cup Team, which captured gold in Belarus.
As a freshman at St. John’s College High School, Fudd teamed up with good friends Malu Tshitenge and Carly Rivera to help extend their dynasty, leading the Cadets to both WCAC and DCSAA state championships. Her second season resembled something out of a Hollywood movie script, as the 5-star student athlete again led her team to capturing WCAC and DCSAA titles. In the process, she became the first sophomore to ever be named Gatorade National Player of the Year, averaging 26.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. She also earned USA TODAY national honors for Player of the Year and was the WCAC Player of the Year.
Fudd’s success on the court is matched only by her discipline, determination and dedication off of it -- traits that have been instilled and constantly reinforced by her parents.
“Countless hours of workouts and being in the gym,” Fudd said. “And finishing practices and staying after. Or getting there before practice or before school to get shots up and work on my game. Just always getting better.”
Fudd’s mother and father were high level athletes in their own regard. Katie Smrcka-Duffy Fudd played basketball at N.C. State and Georgetown before being drafted in the WNBA by the Sacramento Monarchs. Tim Fudd played basketball at American University and professionally overseas. According to Azzi, they’ve helped her prepare both physically and mentally to pursue greatness.
“I tell myself all the time, the days I don’t want to work out are the days I get the most out of it, because in those moments I’m also building my character,” Fudd said. “There are plenty of days that I would rather not work out and just take a day off, but my parents are the reason my work ethic is pretty good. It’s because they don’t let me settle. They are always finding ways to improve my game and make me better.
“They say to me all the time during big moments of big games, ‘Don’t back down now. It’s time to rise.’”
The statement is apropos for Fudd’s upcoming senior campaign.
In April of 2019, Fudd tore her ACL and MCL during a USA Basketball event which caused her to miss a portion of her junior season. Though Fudd recovered in time to return and help the Cadets win their 5th straight DCSAA state title, the team failed to win the WCAC for the first time since 2017 -- a smudge on her resume that Fudd looks to erase.
“I do not plan on losing. I plan on winning everything,” Fudd said. “I’m so excited for this year, excited to play with the younger girls and teach them some stuff. People still think St. John’s is down, but I plan on surprising those people.”
If Fudd sets the expectation, there’s a good chance she’s willing to work as hard as necessary to bring it to fruition.
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