For any new player joining the UConn women’s basketball team, finding chances to score would be difficult. After all, the Huskies return three All-Americans and 91 percent of their scoring from the third-best offense in the nation.
But head coach Geno Auriemma has seen a thing or two and knows Duke transfer Azura Stevens isn’t just any newcomer.
“She’s capable of — without breaking a sweat — getting 25 points every night, easy,” Auriemma said of Stevens. “She’s got tremendous skills.”
While at Duke, Stevens mostly played wing and typically stuck around the perimeter. But with her size at 6-foot-6, both Stevens and the coaching staff have been working to improve her post presence.
“I think I’ll be more of a low post presence both on offense and defense,” Stevens said. “I’ve been developing that by working on a couple of moves so that I don’t get down there and not know what to do.”
However, don’t expect to see her exclusively in the post. Her shooting ability is still second-to-none.
“When she ends up diving in the post for something, she’s on the move. It’s a little better than sticking her down there and having her get beat up,” Auriemma said. “I think Z is as good a shooter as there is, on our team or any team. I hope we can get her a lot of shots.”
Her size and long arms, combined with her ability to hit shots from the perimeter, have led to comparisons to UConn legend Breanna Stewart. Just don’t count Auriemma in that group.
“[Azura] should feel a lot better. This is what, our 12th practice? And she just blocked her second shot so she should feel better,” he said. “Yeah she’s moving in the right direction — she’s got two. She has the same that Stewie did the first time we did warmups her freshman year.”
Sarcasm aside, while defense is an area Stevens needs to work on, it’s something that will come. First, she needs to get back up to the speed of play after sitting out the past season.
“We’re trying to get her to be a little more quicker in everything that she does,” Auriemma said. “She practiced all last year but none of it mattered. Now everything she does gets commented on and matters. It takes some getting used to.”
Even Stevens admitted her mentality this season is different than the last.
“My role was very different in practice (last year),” she said. “I was on the white team in practice when we went through sets so it was more trying to match the intensity level during drills.”
When the Huskies take on court on Wednesday at the XL Center for their first exhibition game against Fort Hayes State, it will be Stevens’ first game in more than a year and a half.
“I think I’ll be a little overwhelmed with emotion,” Stevens said. “I think I’ve kind of forgotten what it’s like to play in a game since it’s been so long but its’ definitely going to be an excited energy after being out for a year.”