November 16, 2020
Paige Bueckers and Azzi Fudd reunite at UConn
How it went down and what it all means
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The UConn Huskies landed another top recruiting class led by point guard Azzi Fudd. Fudd is the #1 recruit in the country, per HoopGurlz, and officially joined other Top 30 recruits Caroline Ducharme, Amari DeBerry and Saylor Poffenbarger.
Fudd will also join USA Basketball teammate, once top high school recruit, and friend Paige Bueckers. UConn head coach Geno Auriemma quelled any ideas that he asked Bueckers to recruit Fudd specifically. Paige herself was very open with how hard she worked to get Fudd to UConn.
“I thought about it a lot. I’ve had those conversations with her on how successful I think we could be knowing how hard we both work,” said Bueckers.
Fudd played a few tricks to keep Paige on her toes ahead of the official announcement. Azzi told her friend she was attending UConn, then reneged. By the time Fudd told her the truth, Bueckers was reluctant to believe her.
“She finally got me convinced. Now I was really excited. A little bit emotional just because I worked really hard for her to come out here and I just how fun it’s gonna be and how successful we could be if we work hard and we just keep working.”
Bueckers and Fudd and the rest of their respective recruitment classes will deliver a versatility Auriemma feels has been missing from the Huskies roster. The duo both stand at 5’11 and bring a versatile skillset to the backcourt. Add to the mix Fudd’s recruit classmates Ducharme (5’10, DeBerry (6’2) and Poffenbarger (6’5) and you can get a sense that gaining length at all positions was a priority for Connecticut.
The game continues to trend towards positionless basketball, but a strong presence in the paint will always be the road to a championship. The ability to clean up the defensive boards and get physical on the offensive block is where we’re likely to see improvements from the Huskies.
Returning players like junior forward Olivia Nelson-Ododa already began making those adjustments last season, especially after the 74-56 loss to Oregon in February. “There was a big step forward for for Liv and a lot of good things came from that,” said Auriemma.
The 6’5 Nelson-Ododa did the brunt of the work in the post, alongside 6’1 forward Megan Walker. The duo combined for 16 points and 17 rebounds, but were no match for Ruthy Hebard (22 points, 12 rebounds) and Satou Sabally (17 points, 10 rebounds).
In addition to size, Auriemma is excited about the obvious skill coming to UConn. Yet, he’s not ready to guarantee this team will raise the first NCAA Championship banner since 2016. Auriemma has had great teams – none better than his 2001 squad – that were expected to win it all and didn’t. That said, there is a lot of promise in the youngest Huskies to join the pack and believes Fudd’s love of the game is unmatched.
“She absolutely loves and lives for the game and I think that’s somewhat rare. But she studies the game, thinks the game, and enjoys playing the game that not just … because it’s cool. She loves the game of basketball.”
UConn will return to play for the Women’s Challenge as part of the Bubbleville at Mohegan Sun Tournament.
Also, be on the lookout for weekly updates on UConn and the BIG EAST Conference coming soon to The Next.