UConn women’s basketball star Azzi Fudd hosts summer basketball camp for charity: ‘Sense of purpose’

WASHINGTON DC — The group of 10 girls sat in a circle.

Some had questions: Who is your best friend in the team? When did you start doing sports?

Others wanted their basketballs and notebooks signed.

Azzi Fudd, seated on one side of the circle, made sure that each girl was heard.

She listened intently to every question, answering each one, no matter how random or obvious. What’s your favorite dish? What college are you going to? She signed every basketball, t-shirt or notebook placed in front of her and even took selfies with children when asked.

The Q&A session was one of four stations at his summer camp Saturday at his alma mater, St. John’s College High School, in Washington D.C.

This is the sixth straight summer the UConn women‘s basketball guard has hosted a summer camp, but the first year she was able to benefit from camp revenue through name, image and likeness. However, instead of keeping the winnings, the 19-year-old said she chose to donate all proceeds from the camp to the Pat Summitt Foundation in honor of her late great-grandmother. of Alzheimer’s disease.

For Azzi, running camps like the one this weekend isn’t about promoting her own brand or her financial future, but rather about giving back in any way she can.

“My great-grandmother passed away, it had a huge impact on my life and it’s something close to my heart, something I’m passionate about helping,” Azzi said on Saturday. “(Pat Summitt) was a great coach, obviously ‘Go Huskies’, but she’s a great coach and I also respect everything she’s done for women’s football. Being able to support a foundation that supports the things I care about heart, but also being able to support the game and someone who has contributed to the legacy of women’s basketball is huge for me.

Azzi’s great-grandmother, Lucy, moved in with the Fudds around the same time Azzi was born. At first, she was able to help Azzi’s parents, Katie and Tim, raise a newborn, but soon her diagnosis worsened and her health declined. Lucy went from helping raise Azzi to being her peer as the two often pulled ice cream out of the freezer together. Soon, Azzi became the one reminding Lucy to take her medicine.

Lucy died when Azzi was 5 years old.

Azzi first came up with the idea of ​​combining her passion for basketball with honoring Lucy when she was given a school project in eighth grade. That summer, Azzi, with the help of her parents, hosted her first day camp. Attendance was free and donations to the Pat Summitt Foundation were encouraged. Tim says that often only 30 to 40 kids show up.

Every year since, Azzi has continued to host the camp.

“She’s very selfless, she’s very caring,” Katie said. “She loves little kids and loves being with them and looking after them. So I just think that’s kind of who she is. … I think she felt a sense of purpose and a sense of worth giving back and doing something that matters.

Tim added: “His desire to want to represent and honor a family member who has passed away, I think makes you proud. We’re very family oriented and we preach that and we emulate that in everything we do and I think that’s one of the things that makes you sit up and say, ‘She gets it.’ She gets the message.'”

With Azzi’s increased popularity and visibility since playing at UConn, the Fudds wanted to expand this year’s camp.

They rented the St. John’s gymnasium with the help of Azzi’s former high school coach, Jonathan Scribner. Scribner used his sports camp company, Hoop Education, as a registration vehicle to help organize camp registrations. Tim found someone to create flyers and Azzi posted them on his social media knowing they would reach more than just local children. Players from the St. John’s women’s basketball team and Katie’s AAU team, along with Azzi’s brothers, volunteered to help coach the kids.

Esther Nilebemuo from Ireland first saw the flyer on Azzi’s Instagram account, which has 216,000 followers. She had already planned to spend the summer in Baltimore working on basketball and made it a priority to stop by Azzi’s camp while she was in town.

“I’ve been a fan of Azzi for so long, so when I saw her on her Instagram, I was like, ‘I have to come. I have to meet her and see her match,’ 16-year-old Nilebemuo said. She’s a big name, she plays for UConn, all the greats have played at UConn, Sue Bird, all of them.

Azzi’s NIL partnerships also helped support the camp. Under Armour, which has a deal with the NBA’s Stephen Curry, which partners with Azzi, donated custom-designed shirts for the camp, while BioSteele donated a whole slate of cases in different flavors. St. John’s allowed campers to use its basketballs and equipment while in the gym.

“I love this place,” Azzi said. “I just had so many good memories here and left on good terms with so many people, like the principal, all of them. So to know that they still care about what I do and allow me to to use this space means a lot.

“While I was here not many elders came back and now that I am at university I travel a lot. I’m home for 10 days this summer, and that’s it, and I figured I’ll never be the alum who never comes back. As I want to come to practices. I want to come to the games and I want to do everything I can to support them and I think it says a lot for the school that they support me as well.

This year’s camp took place on Saturday and Sunday with two three-hour sessions each day. The morning session was dedicated to children from third to eighth grade and the afternoon to children from seventh to secondary school.

Each session began with dynamic dribbling warm-ups, then continued with shooting drills and various skill stations, including a Q&A session with Azzi. After each station was completed, the children participated in the competition portion of the session. The younger ones took part in a skills competition, testing their dribbling, speed and shooting abilities. Older children participated in a free throw contest and 3×3 games. Sunday sessions were devoted to playing games and scrums.

“I learned to (dribble) between my legs a bunch of times without stopping like in a row,” 9-year-old Kendall Cunningham said. “When I was talking with Azzi, it was fun because she’s really nice and she let us (ask) questions, so it was really fun. … I was really nervous (to meet her) because I I’m like one of her biggest fans. I just look up to her because she’s a bit like me, like she has the same interests.

Candy and Phil Anderson surprised their daughter, Presley, with camp tickets. They told him they were coming down from their home in West Chester, Pa., to visit family in DC and packed a bag of his basketball clothes – including a shirt from the cover of SLAM magazine. of Azzi and Paige Bueckers – unbeknownst to her. Once they got to their hotel in DC, they told Presley she was going to meet Azzi.

“I want to go to UConn and she’s one of my favorite players because she’s a good shooter and she’s a really nice girl,” Presley said. “I didn’t know we were coming, so I was shocked.”

Gina Leonard grew up in Wethersfield and became a lifelong UConn fan before moving to Virginia. On Saturday, she brought her 12-year-old daughter, Adriana, to camp for the chance to learn from Azzi.

“I love UConn and I really love women’s basketball and she’s such a strong player,” Adriana said. “She is amazing to watch. She is probably one of my greatest role models. She’s kind of like a celebrity and I was a little nervous because I didn’t want to misstep or anything. It was amazing. It was really fun.”

During the second session on Saturday, former Husky and current Washington Mystics guard Evina Westbrook stopped by with her mother to make an appearance. When camp ended, Westbrook stayed to sign autographs with some of the campers.

Eighty-six children attended Saturday’s session. At $75 for a one-day ticket and $125 for both days, not only will the Fudds be able to easily repay their cost of renting the gym and buying camp insurance, but more importantly, they will be able to give back more than they did in years past.

“She comes back, encourages, teaches and motivates the next generation of kids who are coming up, whether they’re successful or not,” Tim said. “We think it’s really important that you pick the next guy. That you turn around and coach the next one because this sport wouldn’t be what it is today without this older generation, the Sues ( Bird) and the Dianas (Taurasi), going back.

“The real desire of the Azzis and the Paiges, they really want to see the game grow. They want to leave the game in a better place than when they entered it, and I think the only way to do that is to have impact those behind you and continue to be that kind of role model.

maggie.vanoni@hearstmediact.com

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