November 22, 2023 

UConn junior Azzi Fudd will miss 2023-24 season with an ACL injury

'We're all just so upset for Azzi'

Before the college basketball season began, UConn coach Geno Auriemma spoke on behalf of basketball fans everywhere who have yearned to see the Huskies’ two superstar guards, Paige Bueckers and Azzi Fudd, on the court together. Through the first two seasons of her UConn career, Fudd played in just 40 games, and only 15 total games alongside Bueckers, whose UConn career has also been limited by injuries.

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“We’ve been robbed,” Auriemma said at BIG EAST media day. “Because when you go to a show or something, you want to see people that love being on stage, it just emanates from them and [Bueckers and Fudd] have that. When I watch it in practice, it’s uncanny how they just feed off each other.”

Auriemma’s preseason words proved prophetic, as it was announced by UConn on Wednesday that Fudd, after playing in just two games this season, will miss the remainder of her junior season after suffering a medial meniscal tear and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear in her right knee. This injury is yet another significant roadblock in the rising star’s already-rocky basketball career.

“We’re all just so upset for Azzi,” Auriemma said in the statement. “She worked hard to be healthy for this season, and it’s unfortunate when you put in a lot of hard work and have a setback like this. Azzi loves the game and works tirelessly. I’m confident she’ll rehab with the same work ethic and come back better than ever. We’ll obviously miss her presence on the court, but Azzi will continue to be a great teammate and important part of this team this season. Our program will support Azzi through her recovery however we can.”

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Fudd emerged on the national scene when she became the first high school sophomore in history to win the Gatorade Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year. She was surprised at school by WNBA All-Star Elena Delle Donne, who presented Fudd with the award after an inspired season during which she averaged 26.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists for St. John’s, leading the team to a state championship. The athletic, smooth combo guard caught the attention of the nation with her elite shooting and play-making abilities, and secured her spot as the top recruit in her class.

Just weeks after receiving the prestigious award, in April 2019, Fudd was competing in the USA Basketball 3-on-3 U18 nationals. During the championship game, Fudd went down in pain. She was rushed to the hospital, and it was later confirmed that she had torn both the medial collateral ligament (MCL) and ACL in her right knee. Fudd would return to the court several months later, in Jan. 2020, for the tail end of her junior season. In 11 games for St. John’s that season, Fudd seemed to be on the way back to her usual form: averaging 19.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists. In March 2020, however, the season came to an end due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her senior season never quite got off the ground, as St. John’s was unable to play a full season due to various pandemic-related guidelines and restrictions.

When Fudd stepped on campus in Storrs, CT as a college freshman, she was poised to put the unfortunate ending of her high school career behind her. Expectations were high for the Huskies’ 2021-22 season, with Fudd teaming up with 2021 National Player of the Year and close friend Paige Bueckers. Fudd and Bueckers met while playing for USA Basketball, and the backcourt evoked memories of historic UConn backcourt duo — and five-time Olympic gold medalists — Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi.

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Fudd’s freshman and sophomore seasons at UConn didn’t go as planned, though. She played just 15 games during her freshman season due to a foot injury, and missed significant time during her sophomore season due to lingering knee issues.

Basketball fans will for another season miss out on observing the unique talents of Fudd. The hyped guard, whose shooting prowess has earned her the attention the likes of business partner Steph Curry, must again go through rehab of her knee, missing out on the chance to compete on the biggest stage. She won’t get the chance to prove that she belongs among the sport’s up-and-coming star guards like Bueckers, Iowa’s Caitlin Clark, Virginia Tech’s Georgia Amoore or LSU’s Flau’jae Johnson and Hailey Van Lith. She will watch from the sideline, unable to live out her legacy for a storied UConn program.

Fudd’s injury is cruel in its timing, striking just as Fudd and Bueckers were finding their chemistry as the Huskies’ backcourt leaders. It strikes as women’s college basketball is receiving unprecedented attention and during a period when time on the national stage can translate to earning potential through name, image and likeness deals. It’s a loss for a UConn program that has been absolutely devastated by injuries the past few seasons, during the twilight of Auriemma’s legendary career.

Time will how tell how the future chapters of Fudd’s basketball career will unfold. In the short-term, though, as Azzi Fudd is forced to watch more precious time of her collegiate basketball career slip through her fingers, the loss of this chapter of Fudd’s career is a loss for the game itself.

Written by Tee Baker

Tee has been a contributor to The Next since March Madness 2021 and is currently a contributing editor, BIG EAST beat reporter and curator of historical deep dives.

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