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Azzi Fudd rounded a corner at St. John’s College High School on Tuesday afternoon with no idea what would happen next. Not even her parents had filled her in. So when Fudd came into sight, her family, friends, and teammates screamed. Washington Mystics star Elena Delle Donne then approached Fudd with a trophy in her hand.
Gatorade had just named Fudd its National Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year. She is the first sophomore to win the award.
“I’m still in shock,” she says a few minutes after the surprise ceremony. “I’m still processing right now. It’s so amazing.”
Before her sophomore season began, Fudd sat down with her father, Tim, and came up with a list of goals.
Among them she wrote, “Gatorade player of the year.” She had been named the D.C. Gatorade Player of the Year as a freshman, so she made it a goal to repeat this season.
The national award never crossed her mind.
“I did not see this coming at all,” Fudd says with a laugh.
The prestigious prize was first awarded in 1986 and honors student-athletes in 12 sports in each of the 50 states and D.C. Fudd now joins a list that includes Olympic gold medalists and WNBA legends like Candace Parker (2002-03 and 2003-04), Maya Moore (2006-07), and Breanna Stewart (2011-12). Delle Donne was a three-time Gatorade Player of the Year for Delaware.
She beat out Haley Jones, a senior guard from San Jose, California, and her good friend, junior Paige Bueckers of Minnetonka, Minnesota, for the honor.
“I haven’t seen her play in person. I’ve seen film. She’s got that nice right and up mid-range just like Maya Moore,” Delle Donne says of Fudd. “I was having some Maya flashbacks. She’s such a special player. If all goes well, this award can be here [at St. John’s] for a couple years.”
This season, Fudd, a 5-foot-11 guard, led the Cadets to a 35-1 record and averaged 26.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.9 blocks per game. St. John’s won both the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference and D.C. State Athletic Association tournament titles and established itself as one of the best teams in the country. Next month, St. John’s will compete in the GEICO Nationals in New York City. It’ll give Fudd another chance to play with some of her closest friends.
“A lot my teammates I’ve been with since I started playing basketball, so I wouldn’t be here without my parents and without them,” she says. “They push me in practice. It’s a team trophy, honestly.”
Later this month, Fudd will find out who will be named the Naismith Prep Player of the Year. She is the first sophomore ever to be a finalist for that award.