After suffering a terrible injury, the high school basketball sensation is doing her best to keep her spirits high.
LOS ANGELES — It’s one of nearly every basketball player’s worst nightmares and this past April, it happened to Azzi Fudd.
Considered one of the top girl’s high school basketball players in the country regardless of age group, Fudd was at a Team USA camp in Colorado Springs for the U18 3×3 Tournament when she dropped to the floor after making contact with her defender.
Later that night, the grim news was confirmed, she tore both her ACL and MCL. The injury meant no summer basketball for her, and she’ll likely miss the majority of her junior year in high school.
Although she’s going through the recovery process, it’s been tough on her being away from the game she loves.
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“That first day, it was a whole lot of negativity. It didn’t really feel real like this was really happening to me because at least for every basketball player, it’s their worst nightmare,” Fudd told High Post Hoops. “I was thinking about what would life be like, what was I going to do in the next few months. This summer, I wouldn’t get to play. There was a lot of tears.”
In the days to follow, Fudd turned to someone who had a little experience dealing with these kinds of things, her mother. Back in the 90’s, Katie Smrcka-Duffy Fudd was a star at Georgetown. She was drafted by the Sacramento Monarchs, but her pro basketball career was cut short due to injuries.
“She knew what I was going through,” Fudd said. “She was like, ‘you have today and tomorrow to be sad for yourself, but moving on from this, it can’t get worse so it’s time to make it get better.'”
It’s been the strong support system she has in place with her family and friends that have helped her withstand this obstacle. There are days when it all feels so overwhelming, but they’ve been there for her and have kept her from straying from the path.
“I’m really thankful I’m surrounded by family and friends who love me. They keep me motivated. When I have bad days, they’re always there for me,” Fudd said. “It’s really hard, there’s some really hard days where I’m just thinking ‘why, why did this happen to me?’ But I believe I’ve gotten stronger from this, learning how to push through this pain.”
Before the injury, Fudd was routinely making headlines across the nation as one of high school basketball’s most explosive players. She can score in a variety of ways whether it’s beating her defender off the dribble and attacking the rim, knocking down a mid-range jumper, or stepping out and shooting from three-point range.
She’s strong on the other end of the floor as well. Her size enables her to match up defensively against most other guards. She was honored with the Gatorade Girls Basketball Player of the Year award and was a finalist for this year’s Gatorade Player of the Year. Last summer, she was one of the first girls to be invited to NBA star Stephen Curry’s high school basketball camp.
Her talent has attracted no shortage of Division 1 colleges. Although she still has a ways to go, she’s confident her skills will translate well to the next level, especially on the defensive end of the court.
“I’m a really hard worker. I think that I’m a pretty good leader too. I like my jump shot, my favorite things about my game are my jump shot and my defense,” Fudd said. “I can’t stand people who don’t play defense, so at the next level, I will play defense. I just like that feeling of the person you’re guarding, they’re struggling and they can’t score. I feel accomplished in those games.”
Heading into her junior year, she’s already got college offers from most of the major Division 1 conferences including the ACC, the Big 10, the Big 12, the Pac-12, and the SEC. When the time to choose a college finally arrives, there’s going to be a few things she’ll be looking for.
“I want to go somewhere with a family atmosphere, but also somewhere I can talk to the coaching staff and not just about basketball,” Fudd said. “I want coaches that push me, that they can hold me accountable and that they believe in me. I want to grow as a player, I want to learn a lot.”
At this point, there’s no real timetable set as to when Fudd might be able to return to the court. She underwent surgery at the end of May. While the recovery time could vary, it’s probably safe to say she’s going to end up missing a significant portion of her junior season.
Despite that, she’s still looking forward to the upcoming year. St. John’s College High School will be losing senior Malu Tshitenge-Mutombo to North Carolina, but they do have some young incoming talent. While she’s still rehabbing, Fudd is hoping to be a mentor to the younger girls while trying to add to her own game.
“Just getting back on the court and getting healthy. But there are younger girls coming in and they have the potential to be really good, just helping them grow,” Fudd said. “It’s also a few years for me to grow in the parts of my game that I’m not confident in like my post moves. Stuff that you need to be able to do in college. Your coach is going to want you to post up and get baskets. Working on my skills that I’m not as comfortable in.”
This year, in particular, women’s basketball has seen an increase in both fan support and media coverage. Even though she’s still in high school, Fudd has garnered quite a bit of coverage. She’s become a bit of a role model for younger girls.
Seeing that increase in support has been encouraging to her. As she continues her basketball journey, it’s safe to say you’ll be hearing her name quite often.
“I think it’s amazing, not just in basketball but all women’s sports. They’re getting so much more attention and I think it’s amazing,” Fudd said. “It’s makes playing this sport, and no matter what sport it is, having more fans and more support from people, it makes it ten times more fun to play.”
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