Azura Stevens declares for WNBA Draft

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 30: Azura Stevens
COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 30: Azura Stevens /

In a move that surprised many observers and will shake up the first round decisions of many teams, Connecticut’s Azura Stevens decided to forego her final year of eligibility and enter the 2018 WNBA Draft.

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“I’d like to thank the coaches, my teammates and the fans at the University of Connecticut for helping me grow and supporting me as a player,” Stevens said in a press release. “I will miss this program and all that it has been to me. It’s been a lifelong dream for me to play in the WNBA, and I’m excited for this opportunity God has presented me with.”

The decision comes after an impressive, if uneven season for Stevens with the Huskies. The 6’6 Stevens is multi-talented, capable of shooting from the perimeter and defending the rim. But while many thought she’d be a difference-maker after transferring from Duke, then practicing with the Huskies throughout the 2016-17 season, Auriemma used her primarily off the bench, often joking about “my 6’6 two guard”.

Stevens proved particularly valuable in the national semifinal loss to Notre Dame, finishing 8-for-12 from the field and offering a size matchup problem for the Fighting Irish. After the game, Auriemma spoke positively about what Stevens could bring to the program moving forward, but qualified his praise.

“Azura can get a lot of things done on the court that most players can’t, and then she does things on the court that I can’t explain,” Auriemma said. “So for her first year playing for us, I thought she was amazing all year long. She’s come a long, long way. This game will help her an awful lot because she’s never been in this environment before. This is her first time.”

Now, just days later, we all discover that this will be her last time as well, at least at the collegiate level. A Connecticut team already losing Kia Nurse and Gabby Williams to graduation will now have to replace Stevens as well.

Expect an updated draft board soon, but note also that in the current version, Stevens is a projected first round pick. In conversations this afternoon with multiple WNBA talent evaluators, it was clear that hasn’t changed.