Rising junior guard Azzi Fudd stood center court at the Marymount University gymnasium, as kids from the third and eighth grade circled around her, looking up to her like an idol during her third annual basketball clinic on July 19.
Fudd alongside her parents and some of the St. John’s girls’ basketball players organized this clinic to spread awareness for Alzheimer’s and earn money for the Pat Summit Foundation. What started out as a middle school class project has now grown into something bigger and meaningful in the community.
“It started in eighth grade as an independent project,” Fudd said. “Pat Summit recently died and my grandmother died of Alzheimer’s too, so I thought it was a perfect connection between my life and basketball.”
The clinic does more than teach kids the fundamentals of basketball through drills and games. It also helps Fudd develop confidence in speaking in front of a large crowd of people, something that doesn’t come easy to her.
“After the first year, I was really nervous, but it teaches you a lot,” Fudd said. “Speaking in front of people is never easy, so it gives me more confidence with that.”
Fudd has seen a huge increase in participation this year, but what really stood out to her was the amount of boys that came out for the clinic.
“There were a lot of kids this year even boys are here,” Fudd said. “I know boys sometimes won’t go because a girl is [running] it, but there was a good amount of boys. They were full of energy and having a good time.”
Back in April, Fudd faced a major setback, as she tore her ACL and MCL during the USA Basketball 3×3 tournament in Denver.
“An ACL tear is every basketball player worst nightmare,” Fudd said. “It’s really painful and you have a lot of bad days.”
Fudd has been making progress since the injury, as she is able to perform basketball activities such as dribbling and shooting.
“It’s nice to be back on the court even though it’s not full force,” Fudd said. “I feel stronger and more confident. I can move pretty well. I can shoot and dribble.”
Fudd’s injury came after a 2018-19 season, where she once again proved that she is one of the top girls’ basketball players in the country. Fudd, who averaged more than 25 points per game, led St. John’s to third straight WCAC title and fourth straight DCSAA title. The Cadets earned a spot in the GEICO Nationals where they lost to New Hope in the championship game.
“This past season was amazing,” Fudd said. “Our team was so close and I think that was the reason our success was so good. We had such good chemistry, and it was the last time a lot of us were playing together, so we wanted to go out with a bang and not leave anything on the table.”
Fudd’s performance throughout the season led to being named the All-Met Player of the Year and the National Gatorade Player of the Year. Fudd’s Gatorade Player of the Year honor gave her the opportunity to walk the red carpet at the 2019 ESPY Awards on July 10. It was a moment that left Fudd mesmerized, as she was in the presence of the world’s most famous sports figures.
“I was asking people for pictures, but at the same time, I was starstrucked,” Fudd said. “All these athletes, who have done big time things in their field are walking past me on the red carpet. I was like ‘wow, they are walking past me.’ It was crazy.”
From walking the red carpet to the 35,000 followers on Instagram, Fudd never expected the national attention she has received so early in her basketball career.
“If you would have told in the seventh or eighth grade that this would happen, I wouldn’t believe you at all,” Fudd said. “I’m super lucky to be put in good situations to get me seen.”
It’s unclear whether Fudd will play during the 2019-20 season. Fudd is determined to get back on the court for the Cadets, but she is not trying to rush the rehab process.
“My return date is totally up in the air,” Fudd said. “[It’s] all on me and how hard I work with my physical therapist. I could be back in nine months or six months, it really depends. I want to be back for the season, but I’m not going to rush it.”