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MVP contender Fudd continuing the family business
MINSK (FIBA U17 Women's Basketball World Cup 2018) - With the world at her feet, Azzi Fudd is riding the wave with a maturity beyond her years.
The potential is clear to see and the expectations will only continue to grow, particularly following her sparkling performances on the international stage. But Fudd is staying positive and enjoying the game.
"I try not to let the pressure get to me,” she said. "I don't see it as a burden, I like to have a positive outlook on things. I just play and try not to think about all of that."
Fudd is averaging 11 points per game at the FIBA U17 Women's Basketball World Cup 2018 on a stacked USA roster, but it should come as no surprise after her breakout at international youth level as a 14-year-old.
The Virginia native made history when she competed at last year's FIBA U16 Americas Championship by becoming the youngest USA women's player to take part in the history of the competition.
A stat line of 8 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists in a dominant opening win over Colombia would have helped settle any nerves and Fudd saved her best performance for the Final after scoring 18 points to go along with 5 steals as USA were crowned U16 Americas women champions with victory against Canada.
"Winning the gold medal was definitely one of the coolest experiences I’ve had playing basketball," the 5ft 11in (1.80m) guard recalled.
"Being there with my team with the gold wrapped around our necks, I can't even describe the feeling. It's an honour being able to represent my country and it's a lot of fun."
Fudd had a stellar year back home in the US on the the back of the title run in Buenos Aires.
The accolades flooded in as she averaged 24.0 points per game to lead St John's College High School to the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) and D.C. State Athletic Association (DCSAA) championship titles.
Fudd earned the WCAC Player of the Year award and was included on the 2018 MaxPreps All-American second team - the only Freshman on any team - with USA team-mates Haley Jones and Charisma Osborne in the first team.
The 2017-18 season saw a remarkable spell of form at the start of the calendar year with Fudd delivering back-to-back 41-point games before knocking down 10 three-pointers on her way to 36 points in the next one.
"MY SHOOTING DEFINITELY GOT A LOT BETTER, MY THREE-POINTER GOING FROM THE FIBA LINE BACK TO THE STATES AT HIGH SCHOOL, I THINK IT'S A LOT EASIER"
With 9 makes in 13 attempts so far in Minsk, Fudd is comfortably leading the tournament at 69.2 percent shooting from long range with France's Ewl Guennoc as the only other player shooting above 45 percent (46.7 percent).
She credits playing at the international level as having helped improve that aspect of her game.
"My shooting has definitely got a lot better, my three-pointer going from the FIBA line back to the States at high school, I think it's a lot easier," she explained.
"[It's] a lot of different competition, playing against other countries - they play different than we play back in the States so it's cool to see different styles of play."
Basketball runs in Fudd's family. In fact her parents named her in honor of 1996 Olympic gold medalist and former WNBA player Jennifer Azzi.
Her father, Tim Fudd, played professional overseas following his time at American University in the mid-1990s, while her mother, Katie Smrcka-Duffy Fudd, was selected by the now-defunct Sacramento Monarchs in the 2001 WNBA Draft before injuries took their toll.
And, together, they have played, and continue to play, a big role in helping nurture their daughter's talent.
"I can say I definitely wouldn't be here if it wasn't for them," said the 16-year-old. "They are the reason I fell in love with basketball and also helped me develop.
"Before training camps, they are the ones who work with me to get me ready. I take pride in my defense. My dad was really big on defense when I was growing up and it’s about stopping the other team from scoring."
The aim this week for the USA is to return to the top step of the podium as they look to re-capture the U17 Women’s World Cup title which they won in 2010, 2012 and 2014.
The ultimate goal, for Fudd, is to one day play for the women's national team at World Cups and/or Olympics. The potential is certainly there to make that a reality. No pressure, though.