Azzi Fudd, center, and her parents, Katie and Tim Credit: Kelyn Soong

Growing up, Azzi Fudd was not the kid who wanted to try new things. During class, she rarely raised her hand unless she was certain she knew the answer. Her skills on the basketball court have brought her fame, but even now, she tries to deflect the spotlight when she can.

In many ways, Fudd is a perfectionist who doesn’t like to disappoint others.

But on Wednesday, her 18th birthday and national signing day for incoming college recruits, she announced a decision that had been years in the making and eagerly awaited by college basketball fans who all wanted her to play for their favorite team. She could only choose one, and Fudd, the No. 1 ranked girls’ basketball player in the country for the class of 2021, ultimately chose the University of Connecticut.

“It was really hard. I don’t like decisions,” she tells City Paper. “And this is a really big one. And since this process started early, I was lucky. But at the same time, I almost made it harder because I had made such great relationships with coaches. So the thought of having to say no to most of them and only saying yes to one was really hard. It was a tough process, [but] I’m so happy with my decision.”

In sixth grade, Fudd received her first scholarship offer—from Maryland. Now a senior at St. John’s College High School, Fudd, who is only a year and a half removed from tearing both her ACL and MCL, had narrowed down her choices to UConn, UCLA, Maryland, and Louisville, with UConn and UCLA being the finalists.

Fudd’s mom, Katie, describes the decision as similar to a multiple-choice test.

“She had four schools, and she was able to eliminate two,” Katie says. “And then she was left with two. And they were East Coast, West Coast. Male coach, female coach. Won a championship, not won a championship. Up-and-coming and growing, great facilities. It was really hard.”

One of the biggest factors that both Fudd and her mom cite is that at UConn, there comes a familiarity with not just the coaches and its famed program, but with her peers. Fudd will be joining a UConn team that already has Paige Bueckers, the top-ranked recruit from the class of 2020 and one of Fudd’s best friends. Caroline Ducharme, another close friend and highly ranked recruit from this year, has also signed to play for the Huskies, and another classmate from St. John’s will be attending UConn as well.

“I think everything that transpired this year, Kobe and all those kids passing way; there was a kid that she went K through 8 with who passed away in December … I think she just realized life is really short,” Katie says. “And so Paige is up there, but everybody is like, ‘Paige, Paige, Paige,’ she’s best friends with Caroline Ducharme, and one of her best friend from St. John’s is up there. So it’s like three of them that she could be with for three years, four years with one, three years with the other. When are you gonna get that chance to be around these people that you know you love? Not that [she] wouldn’t make great friends elsewhere, but it just feels like life is short and all the boxes are saying yes on that side. So let’s go.”

“It’s something not many people have the opportunity to do,” Fudd adds, “and especially after this year, losing a lot of people, it’s just been kind of like a really special opportunity that I couldn’t turn down.”

The coronavirus pandemic also meant that Fudd could not go on an official visit to UCLA and could not get a comprehensive feel for the team’s atmosphere like she could with UConn. And then of course, there’s the basketball factor.

The Huskies, under coach Geno Auriemma, have been a powerhouse for decades and produced some of the best pro players in the sport’s history, including Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Tina Charles, Maya Moore, and Breanna Stewart.

“Their players are always ready for the next level and Olympic teams and whatnot. And that’s where I want to be,” Fudd says. “So I know that they’re going to develop me and get me ready for the next level.”