Azzi Fudd was named the 2018-19 Gatorade National Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
She was presented with the award at her high school Tuesday afternoon by none other than — SURPRISE! — Washington Mystics star Elena Delle Donne.
At the ripe old age of 16, the 5-foot-11 Fudd, who plays the guard position, is taking the basketball world by storm. People, including Mystics guard Kristi Toliver, have been traveling far and wide to watch her and her fellow St. John’s College High School teammates play.
In August 2018, Fudd and Cameron Brink became the first girls ever invited to participate in Stephen Curry’s SC30 Select Camp. There, she honed her sharp-shooting abilities, which include a smooth step-back corner three-pointer reminiscent of Curry’s. Fudd ended the camp on a high note by winning the three-point contest over a field made up primarily of five-star high school boys.
But her talents do not stop there.
Fudd’s game is marked by a solid defensive presence and a court vision well beyond her years. Drawing comparisons to the likes of Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi, Fudd is averaging 26.1 points, 2.5 assists, 2.2 steals and 1.9 blocks per game.
After surprising Fudd at the award presentation, Delle Donne said in an interview with Swish Appeal that one of the best parts of the day was getting to celebrate Fudd and her accomplishment in the presence of Fudd’s family and teammates.
Elena Delle applauds increased visibility of strong women
Delle Donne also spoke about the gravity of Fudd’s achievement from a societal angle:
Visibility is so important for young athletes to be able to look and see somebody that they admire, and hopefully aspire to be like. So, it’s so big, and I remember when I was younger, I mainly only saw NBA guys out there. It’s so important not only to the athletes, but you see now a superhero [Captain Marvel] that’s a strong female ... It’s an honor to be able to be there with Azzi and celebrate this moment and hopefully inspire her to continue going in her career.
The Gatorade Player of the Year program recognizes elite high school athletes for their on- and off-field accomplishments.
Past women’s basketball players to receive this “most prestigious award in high school sports” include WNBA stalwarts Breanna Stewart (2011-12), Chiney Ogwumike (2009-10), Skylar Diggins (2008-09), Nneka Ogwumike (2007-08), Maya Moore (2006-07), Tina Charles (2005-06) and Candace Parker (2002-03, 2003-04).
Off the court, in addition to her 3.68 GPA, Fudd is involved with the “Hoop for a Cure” basketball clinic that raises money for the Pat Summitt Alzheimer’s Foundation.
Azzi was shocked, but thought the day was awesome!
“No, I had no idea,” Fudd said, of being presented with the award by Delle Donne. “I was completely shocked.”
See for yourself!
Being named Gatorade Player of the Year was one of Fudd’s goals — it was written down on a list, in her phone. Setting the goal, and meeting it, left her speechless.
“I have no words to describe how I’m feeling right now,” Fudd said.
Her own basketball career aside, Fudd is also proud of what she contributes to younger girls, stating: “I help my mom all the time with her younger team.”
The younger team she refers to is made up of fourth and fifth grade girls who did not make AAU squads. And Fudd admires them:
It’s, like, refreshing to see ... they don’t have to be there. They didn’t make the team but they are there and they’re working hard. They’re not very good, but they’re having fun.
Fudd also runs a free basketball clinic sometimes that accepts donations, with all proceeds going to the Pat Summitt Alzheimer’s Foundation. Fudd, who started the clinic when she was in eighth grade, stated that her great-grandmother died of Alzheimer’s, so raising money to support the Summitt foundation has special meaning.
Young women really look up to Fudd, but she is not fully comfortable with the attention — not yet — telling Swish Appeal that her face often turns red when she is asked to sign autographs.
“So, [younger girls] looking up to me — it’s crazy because I never saw myself as being someone’s role model, at least not now, while I’m still in high school.”
But seeing girls attend her games, and being asked for autographs, makes Fudd want to work harder to be a fine role model for the girls coming up behind her.
Supporting the younger generation is a quality she and Delle Donne obviously share.