Azura Stevens, born in Pawtucket, Rhode Island and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina is a junior at the University of Connecticut who is a forward playing for the UCONN Huskies, #23. Stevens is a transfer from Duke who is considered by some to be one of, if not the greatest athletes in UCONN’s history. Standing at 6’6″, Stevens has continued to prove herself on the court, and has earned high praise from head coach Geno Auriemma.
Stevens hails from a family of athletes and is mentored by her older sister, Da’Shena, also an accomplished basketball player. Under Da’Shena’s guidance, Stevens’ career has flourished.
Stevens is known as UCONN’s not-so-secret weapon due to her ability to dominate the court and take control of the game, proving herself again and again as one of the team’s most invaluable assets. Stevens continues to gain recognition for her incredible skill-set from Coach Auriemma, her fellow Huskies, her fans and the ACC.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Stevens Hails From a Family of Athletes, Including Her Older Sister Da’Shena, Also a Basketball Player
Stevens is the daughter of Damon and Kaasha Stevens and has two sisters; Kayla, 15, and Da’Shena, 25, and two brothers, Davell and Daniel. Da’Shena established herself as a prolific player at St. John’s from 2008-2012 and is now a coach for the Red Storm. In addition, Da’Shena has helped Stevens to develop her career, serving as a dedicated mentor, coach and friend, helping Stevens to make the decision to transfer from Duke to UCONN. More information on Da’Shena’s career is available from her official bio on redstormsports.com.
“Da’Shena Stevens played against UConn during her outstanding four-year career at St. John’s. The 2009 Big East Freshman of the Year helped the Red Storm end a 27-game losing streak to UConn and snap the Huskies’ NCAA-record 99-game home winning streak as a senior. The Stamford, Connecticut, native is now an assistant coach at her alma mater,” reports sny.tv.
Stevens acknowledges the invaluable, spot-on advice and guidance Da’Shena has provided her with throughout her college basketball career. Initially, Da’Shena encouraged Stevens to enroll at Duke and play for the Blue Devils. “I’ve been in communication with her especially since I got to Duke because she’s been through all this before,” Azura said. “She was aware I was going to make this move and she tried to give me the best advice that she could. She threw in, ‘Could I come to St. John’s?’ but obviously she knew. She helped me try to make the most of the opportunity that I had and this is a great opportunity for me,” Stevens explained to sny.tv.
With Da’Shena’s encouragement and blessing, Stevens made the decision to transfer to UCONN. This meant sitting out for a season to comply with NCAA rules, a risk that Stevens was willing to take and agree to, and accepted the offer extended to her by the Huskies.
2. Stevens has Been Called the Greatest Player in UCONN’s History
In November of 2017, Graham Hays of espn.com published an article entitled “Is Azura Stevens the Greatest Husky of Them All?” For many, the clear answer is yes. Stevens, who transferred to UCONN from rival team Duke, was immediately put in the spotlight upon joining up with Connecticut. Faced with a trial by fire, Stevens faced intense pressure to prove herself quickly, and she more than exceeded the expectations on her; she utterly destroyed them.
“It’s as if the Golden State Warriors slipped in the NBA Finals after a record-setting regular season and then added the closest thing to a unique talent in the game,” wrote Hays, praising Stevens for being the incredible talent volcano that she is.
Upon joining the team in 2016, Stevens made the team utterly unstoppable. Alongside teammates Katie Lou Samuelson, Kia Nurse, Gabby Williams and Napheesa Collier, Stevens quickly became a star among stars; a force to be reckoned with and a stand-out athlete among an already incredible basketball team, bolstering the strength of the Huskies and not just setting the bar even higher; destroying the bar altogether.
What is it that Stevens brings to the team that makes her such an invaluable asset? It’s a combination of her dazzling athleticism, her energy, her speed, her motivation and her utter devotion to the Huskies, a constant morale booster and inspiration to her teammates.
3. Stevens is a Transfer From Duke Who Adjusted Quickly After Joining the Huskies, Earning High Praise from Her Teammates as Well as Head Coach Geno Auriemma
As previously mentioned, Stevens started off her college basketball career as a member of the Duke Blue Devils, one of UCONN’s biggest rivals. Stevens played against the Huskies in 2014 while she was still enrolled at Duke, long before she would consider the prospect of transferring to Connecticut and joining the UCONN women.
A great deal of pressure was put on Stevens to prove herself once she was eligible to participate in games per the official NCAA rules. The subject of high expectations, much anticipation, excitement and attention from the press, Stevens’ debut on the team was far from quiet; all eyes were on her. As a result, Stevens was given a trial by fire; she had to sink or swim and prove herself to her teammates and the public from the get go. Stevens did not disappoint; she dazzled, making her transition from Duke to UCONN appear seamless, natural and effortless. If Stevens felt the pressure to deliver, she hid it well, maintaining her composure and displaying nothing but confidence, level-headedness and boundless energy. She made it look easy as she stunned the crowd.
“My sophomore year I came to this crossroads of ‘am I going to stay here or am I going to leave?’” Stevens said late last month while volunteering at UConn coach Geno Auriemma’s annual charity golf tournament at the Hartford Golf Club. “I’ve been thinking about it for a little bit, but at the end of the season I solidified my answer so I chose to leave. I opened up my recruiting to certain schools, but when Connecticut came calling, it was an opportunity I couldn’t miss. They contacted me, but it was a two-way communication. I said ‘wow, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.’ I came up for a visit, just meeting the team, the coaches, seeing the campus was really special,” Stevens explained to the New Haven Register.
According to Stevens, it wasn’t just the draw of playing for the Huskies that informed her decision. She alluded to some instability within the Duke women’s basketball program but declined to elaborate further.
4. Stevens was Named the ACC’s Sixth Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year
Stevens has gained an incredible amount of recognition for her skills both at Duke and UCONN, and her dazzling record speaks for itself. While at Duke, Stevens’ accomplishments included “an All-ACC First Team selection as a sophomore and a Second Team pick as a freshman, Stevens averaged 16.2 points, 8.8 rebounds and shot 52.3 percent from the field in 58 games for the Blue Devils during her two years at Duke … An Honorable Mention All-America selection as a sophomore, the Raleigh, N.C. native led the ACC with 14 double-doubles and 9.6 rebounds per game … Will have two years of eligibility remaining beginning with the 2017-18 campaign,” as outlined by her bio on uconnhuskies.com.
While at Duke, Stevens was an All-ACC First Team selection. After spending two years with the Blue Devils, Stevens joined the UCONN women. Since joining the Huskies, Stevens has received the prestigious AAC Newcomer of the Year and Sixth Player of the Year Awards.
Of course, it was Stevens’ performance as an incredible standout on her high school basketball team that gained the attention of college recruiters from across the country. Stevens’ accomplishments as a high school athlete included being selected as a “Parade Magazine All-America as a senior … 2014 SWAC Player of the Year and North Carolina District 5 Player of the Year selection … 2014 USA Today All-North Carolina First Team, Associated Press All-State, All-SWAC First Team and North Carolina Basketball Coaches Association All-State First Team selection … WBCA High School All-America Honorable Mention … compiled 1,550 points, 789 rebounds and 145 blocked shots over her high school career … as a senior, averaged 29.6 points, 18.1 rebounds, 3.3 blocks, 1.8 assists and 1.1 steals … posted 21 double-doubles, including 12 straight to open the season … led Cary to a 28-4 record and the 2014 SWAC championship … scored 40 or more points in three games, 30 or more points in 12 contests and 20 or more points in 20 games … scored a season-high 47 points, grabbed 17 rebounds and had five blocks in her final high school game against Riverside,” reports uconnhuskies.com.
As a result of her astonishing high school record, Stevens had her pick among the most elite universities across the country, ultimately deciding to accept Duke’s offer.
5. Stevens is Known as UCONN’s Not-So-Secret Weapon due to her Ability to Dominate the Court
Stevens’ ability to dominate the court, quickly take over the game and punish her opponents has given her the reputation of being UCONN’s not-so-secret weapon. Stevens is perhaps the team’s deadliest player, who follows the rules but remains relentless against her opponents, not just beating them but destroying them. To describe Stevens as an aggressive player would be a vast understatement; she takes no prisoners, as The Day reports.
According to The UCONN Blog, Stevens has finally hit her stride; going from being an excellent player to a phenomenal one. Stevens is comfortable among the Huskies, more focused than ever before, motivated and hungry, a sheer force of raw talent, drive and focus.
In response to Graham Hays’ question of whether Stevens is in fact the greatest UCONN player of all time, there is no definitive answer yet. However, what is undeniable is that Stevens is an astonishing player, who is expected to lead her fellow Huskies to a victory at the NCAA tournament this year. Stevens is polished, practiced and unprecedented, and she is just getting started.
Source: Heavy Sports