For the fourth time in five years, the UConn Women’s Basketball Program has signed the No. 1 highschool recruit in the country to come play for the Huskies. With former No. 1 recruits in junior Christyn Williams and freshman Paige Bueckers already on the roster, Azzi Fudd will be joining an already loaded lineup as a freshman next season. Now, with the team’s young core largely in place, head coach Geno Auriemma is hoping that the program can return to being “amazing” once again.
Auriemma is certainly no stranger to landing top recruits, but like his players, he is very excited to usher in the next era of women’s basketball at UConn. He said, “We recruit the same way every year. Some years you get luckier than others. Some years the top two or three or four players in the country actually are that good, and Paige is… and I’m sure Azzi will be.”
Though Geno has his mind on competing for championships as he always has, he made sure to temper expectations for such a young team in their first few years together. In fact, the hall-of-fame coach has seen it first hand that talent doesn’t always guarantee success. “When [Dianna Taurasi] was a freshman, we had the most talented team ever assembled in the history of college women’s basketball, and we didn’t win the national championship… I wanna get as many good kids in here that I think can help us win national championships. Whether or not that happens, that still remains to be seen. Now, having said that, there’s a pretty good chance that we’ll be pretty good,” he said with a smirk.
Perhaps no one is more excited to welcome Fudd into the locker room than Bueckers herself. Since the pair played several years together with the USA Basketball Program, they have spent time together outside of sports and become best friends off the court as well. Bueckers, a Minnesota native who helped with recruiting, and Fudd, who has grandparents in the state, formed an off-court relationship that they hope can translate into on-court success. “We have that bond where we can talk to each other about anything. It helps that we’re both held to a high standard,” she said. “I worked really hard for her to come out here and I just know how fun it’s gonna be and how successful we can be if we work hard.”
Beyond adding Fudd, Bueckers is already encouraged by what she’s seen from her current freshman teammates. She believes that the closeness and competitiveness of the group can elevate the team to be successful. “We’re all really close… we hold ourselves to a really high standard as a really young team,” she said. “[Nika Muhl] never lets her man get the rebound, [Aaliyah Edwards] never lets her man get the rebound. We all hate losing. It’s not just games, it’s every drill in practice.”
We’ll see if Geno and the Huskies can put it together over the next few seasons, but right now they have all the talent they need.