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UConn WBB Weekly: Will Azzi Fudd be part of the Huskies’ solution at point guard?

The Huskies need to figure out their backup plan to Nika Mühl at the point and Fudd is a top candidate to help out.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

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Will Azzi Fudd be part of the solution at point guard?

There is no bigger hole caused by Paige Bueckers’ absence this season than at point guard. The Huskies will find a way to replace her scoring — Lou Lopez Sénéchal piled on the points during four years at Fairfield, Caroline Ducharme and Azzi Fudd showed they can shoulder the load at times last year, and the frontcourt can pick up some slack, too. Someone else will step up as the go-to player in big moments — again, both Ducharme and Fudd made their share of clutch plays as freshmen.

But at point guard? The solution is much more complicated. Nika Mühl is the obvious choice to run the offense, but even if she stays healthy and stays out of foul trouble, it’s impossible to ask her to play 40 minutes every single game. And considering Mühl’s history of foot/leg injuries, UConn will need to manage her minutes to make sure she’s ready for March.

The Huskies do have Inês Bettencourt as a backup point guard on the roster, but she was an 11th-hour pickup who was supposed to go to a junior college this year. Even if she surpasses expectations, UConn won’t want to put the offense solely in the hands of a freshman who missed summer workouts. There needs to be another backup plan.

Enter Fudd. The sophomore is at her best when she plays off the ball, but Plan A went out the window when Bueckers tore her ACL. Using Fudd as a backup point guard might not be the perfect solution, but it’s one the Huskies are planning for.

“[Jamelle Elliott] said that the other day. She was like, ‘You know, with Paige out, did that even cross your mind, that you might have to be a backup point guard?’ And I was like, No, that did not cross my mind but I’m ready for it. I like a good challenge,’” Fudd said with a laugh.

Even before Bueckers’ injury, Fudd had spent the summer getting more comfortable with the ball in her hands so she could expand her offensive game beyond catch-and-shoot threes, which is where she did most of her damage as a freshman. With Fudd expected to become one of UConn’s top options on offense, she may end up being a distributor anyways if opposing defenses try to key in on her.

“Everyone is a weapon and a danger to other teams,” she said. “So if they want to double team or focus extra hard on me, then that leaves Caroline, Nika, Aaliyah open — and it’s easy buckets for them.”

It’s not so much a matter of if Fudd can handle point guard duties — she has enough talent that if she specialized in it, she’d probably become one of the best floor generals in the country — as it is about maximizing her abilities. Fudd’s shot is elite, so if an increase in ball handling means she a decrease in her shot attempts, that would make the Huskies a worse team.

But as Geno Auriemma has mentioned at every possible turn, Fudd isn’t just a great shooter or a great scorer — she’s a great all-around basketball player. She just didn’t have a chance to show that off much as a freshman due to a lingering foot injury. Now, Fudd says she’s fully healthy and with Bueckers out, UConn seems to be counting on her to become the team’s new star.

“The demands on Azzi are going to be even greater because I’m going to be really looking to get her to do whatever she did last year, more than that in every way — offensively, defensively,” Auriemma said. “There’s no reason why she can’t be one of the top players in the country and that’s how I’m gonna coach her. Because that’s what I think she can do.”

If Fudd meets the expectations of her coach this season, the Huskies won’t have any concerns about the point guard position. The sophomore should be a more than capable fill-in behind Mühl.

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