UConn women's basketball's Azzi Fudd ready for bigger role with Paige Bueckers out: 'Good challenge'

STORRS — Azzi Fudd knows she’s capable of much more than being just a shooting guard for the UConn women's basketball team.

With her teammate and close friend Paige Bueckers out for the season with an ACL tear, Fudd will be expected to play a bigger role as sophomore. In fact, she may have the ball in her hands a lot more this season.

Junior Nika Mühl is expected to be the starting point guard for the Huskies, after starting 19 games last season when Bueckers was out. But Muhl averaged 21.7 minutes per game and UConn will need another guard to facilitate the offense.

Fudd is ready.

"I played point guard with USA basketball so I know I'm capable of it," Fudd said earlier this month. "(Assistant Coach Jamelle Elliot) said it the other day. She was like, 'You know with Paige out, did that even crossed your mind ... That you might have to be the backup point guard?' I was like, no, it did not cross my mind but I'm ready for it.

"I like it. I like a good challenge."

Fudd averaged 12.1 points and shot 43% from 3-point range (58 of 135) in 25 games as a freshman, including 17 starts. But after missing 11 games with a foot injury, Fudd said she is moving better and ready to "play the way I know I can."

"I'm very excited,” Fudd said. "Not to just show everyone else but kind of just to show myself."

One reason that UConn fans might not have been introduced to the best version of Fudd is because of her injury history  —  an ACL tear during high school and the stress reaction to her foot last season.

Fudd is now healthy and she has dedicated most of her offseason training to practicing her pull-up jumper while working on her explosiveness.

"I worked a lot on being comfortable with the ball in my hands and being comfortable like with my pull-up,” Fudd said. "My pull-up was one of my favorite parts of my game and then tore my ACL, then COVID ,and then I hurt my foot, so I wasn't able to explode or jump like I could, So I kind of lost that part of my game. I've been working on getting that back."

Becoming more comfortable with her pull-up shot will add a component to Fudd’s game that was missing for some of last season. Instead of just being a spot-up deep shooter, Fudd hopes to create her own shots by driving the lane and pulling up. And if a defender is sagging because they expect Fudd to drive, she will have more space to make shots.

Fudd, the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2021, can also distribute and act as playmaker. While Fudd said "everyone needs to step up this season" with Bueckers out, she has the opportunity to be a true orchestrator of the offense.

That's what UConn expected from the three-time Gatorade Washington DC Player of the year, 2019 National Gatorade Player of the Year, and 2021 McDonald's All-American.

"I was not myself at all last year," she said. "There were spurts where I would kind of like, show kind of my old self or like what I'm capable of, but I was mostly a shooter last year. I'm capable of so much more."