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Last week’s Weekly:
Who’s got next for UConn?
Over the weekend, one generation in the WNBA passed the torch to the next. With Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles set to retire at the end of this season, the All-Star game represented the ceremonial moment when they put the league fully into the hands of the next wave of superstars, headlined by Breanna Stewart and A’ja Wilson.
With such a major transition underway, ESPN tried to answer a simple question: Who’s got next?
As Alexa Philippou wrote: “With the old guard on the outs, and the likes of recent MVPs Breanna Stewart, Elena Delle Donne, A’ja Wilson and Jonquel Jones having already established themselves as the now, who’s got next in the WNBA?”
This week, we adapted the idea (with permission from the author, of course) for UConn. Which players are next to go to the WNBA, win major awards or set new milestones? The only caveats are that the list only includes current or future Huskies (i.e no players already in the WNBA) and if a player has already accomplished something — like Paige Bueckers winning national player of the year — she won’t be considered for the category.
Next No. 1 draft pick: Paige Bueckers
Some years, there isn’t a consensus about who should be the top pick in the WNBA Draft. That won’t be the case in 2024 after Bueckers’ senior season. While some media or fans will argue Caitlin Clark deserves consideration at No. 1, that shouldn’t be a serious debate in front offices. Bueckers’ play-making, her ability to create her own shot from anywhere and — most importantly — her efficiency makes her a can’t-miss prospect that change the fortunes of one lucky WNBA franchise.
Also considered: Azzi Fudd — Bueckers is eligible to enter the draft following the 2022-23 season and if she declares, she would be in the same class as Aliyah Boston. In that situation, it’s more plausible that a team decides they’d rather have a dominant post player like Boston over Bueckers. If that happens, Fudd would be the top prospect in 2025.
Next WNBA draft pick: Dorka Juhász
If nothing else, Juhász is an easy choice since the only other Husky without any eligibility remaining after this season is Fairfield transfer Lou Lopez Sénéchal, so everyone else is a few years off from the draft. At 6-foot-5, Juhász has the size to merit a late-round selection, but Geno Auriemma has higher expectations.
“I think Dorka’s going to have the kind of season where I’d be shocked if she wasn’t one of the top five or six players picked in the draft next year,” he said in June.
Next national player of the year: Azzi Fudd
Of the Huskies who have earned national player of the year honors in the ESPN recruiting era (2006-present), every single one — Tina Charles, Maya Moore, Breanna Stewart, Paige Bueckers — has been the No. 1 prospect out of high school. Not only is Azzi Fudd the only other top recruit on UConn’s roster besides Bueckers, she has the skillset to dominate at the level needed to earn the honor of being the nation’s top player.
Fudd has already proven herself as one of the best shooters ever to come through the program but can also score on the drive or with a lethal pull-up jumper. While we didn’t see it as much last season, Fudd has has great court vision and can get the ball to her teammates if the defense gives her added attention.
Even though she impressed as a freshman, Fudd still needs to take her game to a new level to put herself in the mix for national player of the year. If she does, she’ll still have tough competition in Bueckers, too. But Fudd has the talent, as well as the pedigree, to earn the award at some point in her career.
Next All-American: Caroline Ducharme
For all the reasons listed above, Fudd has the best chance of being the program’s next All-American. So instead of rehashing it, let’s move on to the No. 2 candidate and a dark horse option for next season: Caroline Ducharme. Between her breakout against Notre Dame on Dec. 5 until her head injury on Feb. 2 at Creighton, Ducharme averaged 16.2 points per game and added a five-assist contest, a three-block night and and also had six games with at least five rebounds,.
Those numbers alone wouldn’t have been enough to earn All-American status had she performed at that level all season long. But Ducharme will have a larger role next year with Evina Westbrook and Christyn Williams off to the pros, which means even a small step forward should be enough to boost her numbers and push her name into the All-American conversation.
Next star freshman: Ice Brady
Whenever Auriemma’s been asked about Ice Brady, he’s gone out of his way to praise the freshman. He predicted she’ll “help a lot” next season and mentioned that she fills the need for skilled post players in the program. While Brady hasn’t been tested at the college level yet, she did excel with Team USA at the FIBA U18 Americas Championship with 13 points and 7.5 rebounds per game while shooting 65.5 percent from the field.
Aaliyah Edwards and Dorka Juhász are locked in as the top two names on the frontcourt depth chart but behind them, everything is up for grabs. Brady will have ample opportunity to not only play right away but make an impact on the court.
Also considered: KK Arnold (2023) was impressive at Nike Nationals and already looks like she could step in and play for the Huskies this season. Her strength and toughness will help her adjust quickly as a freshman and with a loaded backcourt, she won’t have to do too much right away.
Next 50/40/90 member: Azzi Fudd
The 50/40/90 club — hitting 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three and 90 percent from the line — is one of the most elite in all of basketball. Only one UConn player — Sue Bird in 2001-02 — has ever accomplished the feat while it’s only happened once in the WNBA as well.
Most other Huskies have fallen short on free throws. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was half a percentage below 90 percent from the stripe as a sophomore while Paige Bueckers came in 3.1 percent short during her freshman campaign. Maya Moore, Breanna Stewart, Napheesa Collier, Moriah Jefferson and Kia Nurse all had 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from three at one point but never hit over 90 percent from the line.
In fact, there have only been two occasions in which a UConn player made over 90 percent of their free throws in a single season: The aforementioned Bird and Azzi Fudd, who went 91.2 percent from the stripe last year. She only missed out on the club by shooting 45.7 percent from the field.
That’s why Fudd gets the nod. She’s elite from the free throw line in a way we haven’t seen from anyone else since Bird and her efficiency from the floor should only improve as she gets better.
Also considered: Paige Bueckers
Next program record to fall: Single-season assists record
As a freshman, Paige Bueckers averaged 5.8 assists per game and obliterated the freshman record for assists in a season with 168 — 43 more than the previous mark. Extended over a full campaign (36 games as opposed to 30 during the COVID year), that comes out to 209 assists in a season — fourth-most in program history.
Now, Bueckers has the best surrounding cast in her UConn career and won’t have to shoulder as much of the scoring load, which should help her assist numbers leap. As long as she stays healthy, the junior should easily break Sue Bird’s record of 231 helpers in a single season.
Also considered: 3-pointers made in a single game (10) — Azzi Fudd
Best of social media
Are the Huskies gonna switch sports?
we’re horse girlies now— UConn Women’s Basketball (@UConnWBB) July 13, 2022
Aaliyah Edwards is having a good summer:
Morgan Valley and her wife Lauren announced the birth of their son, Jay Jay:
Napheesa Collier is on the latest cover of W SLAM:
Nika Mühl forever:
The future is in good hands:
Breanna Stewart’s signature shoe has been unveiled: