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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, April 02, 2018

UConn's Stevens declares for the WNBA Draft

Interviews were wrapping up in the weight room, which is used for post-game interviews at Gampel Pavilion, and without many people left around Azura' Stevens I threw a question her way that I thought I already knew the answer to.

Because the class that Stevens was in coming out of high school are seniors in college, she was eligible to declare for the WNBA Draft. When I asked about her intentions, I thought she would give me a similar answer to what Napheesa Collier did about definitely coming back for her final season. That was not the response I got.

"I haven't really put a lot of thought into it so I don't know what is going to happen," Stevens said. "I never came into the season saying I was going to leave or I was going to stay so I am kind of focused on the present and enjoying what we have here right now."

Well, Stevens' focus is now on her professional career as she announced her intentions to make herself eligible for the April 12 WNBA Draft. UConn, which finished third in the final USA Today Top 25 Coaches Poll, figured to be ranked no higher than third even if Stevens returned. Now it will be intriguing to see where the Huskies fall when the preseason polls come out.

“I’d like to thank the coaches, my teammates and the fans at the University of Connecticut for helping me grow and supporting me as a player,” Stevens said in a release from UConn. “I will miss this program and all that it has been to me. It’s been a lifelong dream for me to play in the WNBA, and I’m excited for this opportunity God has presented me with.”

Stevens is not the first UConn player to give up a season of eligibility to turn pro. Morgan Tuck could have come back for the 2016-17 season but opted to enter the 2016 draft where she went third overall to the Connecticut Sun. The same year, Michigan State's Aerial Powers passed up her remaining eligibility and went fifth overall, in 2015 early entrants Jewell Loyd and Amanda Zahui B. were the top two picks and last year Allisha Gray and Kaela Davis entered the draft after helping South Carolina win the national title and went fourth and 10th overall.

Stevens would have been a centerpiece of  next season's UConn squad and her departure leave UConn without a potential national player of the year candidate.

“We wish Azurá nothing but the best and we’re going to be there to support her in any way we can,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “Z and her family have given this a lot of thought and feel this is the right time to pursue this.”

Stevens averaged 14.7 points and 7.4 rebounds per game in her only season at UConn. One of three players to appear in all 37 games this season, the 6-foot-6 Stevens led UConn with 100 offensive rebounds and 76 blocked shots.

UConn will be without three of its top six scorers from a team that was undefeated before a loss to eventual national champion Notre Dame at the Final Four with Stevens joining Kia Nurse and Gabby Williams as former UConn players expected to be taken in the first round.

Leading scorer and two-time All-American Katie Lou Samuelson, fellow rising senior Napheesa Collier and Crystal Dangerfield will form the nucleus of a team looking for its record 12th straight Final Four appearance. The role for highly touted freshman Megan Walker already was expected to expand with the departure of Nurse and Williams. With Stevens also leaving, naturally she figured to be a significant part of the rotation during her sophomore year. Incoming freshmen Olivia Nelson-Ododa, a 6-foot-4 forward, and Christyn Williams, a 5-foot-11 guard, will be joined by the other returning players Molly Bent, Batouly Camara, Mikayla Coombs, Kyla Irwin and Lexi Gordon on next year's roster.


Blogger Robaust10 said...

Am Glad, maybe she can make a layup in traffic ... Way over rated....
Geno won't play Walker ... She should leave also .... One of his worst coaching years ... I wonder if the game has passed him by.

5:00 PM 

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