Azzi Fudd, Elena Delle Donne talk surprise Gatorade Player of the Year Award


Elena Delle Donne’s other job is making dreams come true.

According to Elena Delle Donne, the Ed McMahon of the Gatorade Player of the Year Award, getting the trophy to each year’s winner undetected has gotten progressively harder.

“Even last year, they were saying, ‘We knew if we saw Elena in town, the award was coming this way,'” Delle Donne said in a phone interview moments after surprising Azzi Fudd with the 2019 Gatorade Player of the Year trophy. “It’s becoming my thing.”

It’s true: Delle Donne has been presenting the trophy for several years now, dating back to when Katie Lou Samuelson, who will join Delle Donne in the WNBA in 2019, was a high school senior.

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And it became Fudd’s thing on Tuesday afternoon, when Delle Donne brought the trophy to St. John’s in Washington, DC, where the sophomore attends school.

“Luckily, Gatorade has some people who come up with some really great surprises, and I just have to execute them,” Delle Donne said. “This year was a really great surprise, because all of her teammates and family members were there for it. And we were just waiting at the end of a long hallway… some of her teammates had a sign up. We all just yelled ‘Surprise!'” And she was taken aback.”

Fudd seconded Delle Donne’s account, telling of Courtney Bell, the Dean of Students, rushing her down that hallway.

Seeing Delle Donne, who also wrote Fudd a letter with advice to help her navigate the years ahead, is par for the course for Fudd, a basketball junkie, who explained how meaningful it is to have a professional women’s team in town.

“The WNBA isn’t as easy to find on TV as the NBA or men’s college basketball,” Fudd said Tuesday afternoon. “So it’s nice that they’re in town, it’s easy to go to game, and the women on the team are really nice about getting pictures, talking to them. So for younger girls especially, it’s an inspiration.”

Fudd is quickly becoming an inspiration in her own right, and faces the tribulations that come with that. For one thing: where does the trophy go?

“I have no idea! My grandparents are in town, and they’ve helped me to re-organize my room, and they’ve helped me put away my other trophies—but that space is not big enough for this one.”

Count on this becoming a recurring problem for Fudd.

As for Delle Donne? She’s ready to utilize her newfound surprise skills in other areas of life.

“I think this is a great skill that I’m learning, surprising these athletes,” Delle Donne said. “So my wife is turning 30 this year, and maybe I’ll have to use my skills for that.”

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