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Azzi Fudd’s injury history hangs over superstar potential

UConn guard Azzi Fudd has been key to the team’s success this season. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

The UConn women’s basketball team will look different without Azzi Fudd.

The star sophomore guard will miss the next three to six weeks with a knee injury, the latest in a seemingly never-ending string of hardships for the Huskies. The woes for the iconic program started ahead of the season, when Paige Bueckers tore her ACL in August, and reached their lowest point Sunday, when Fudd went down in a loss to Notre Dame.

Injuries have plagued not just UConn but Fudd herself, dating back to her high school career.

Her first major injury came following her sophomore season at St. John’s College High School (D.C.), in which she became the first sophomore to earn the Gatorade Player of the Year award for basketball. While participating in a USA Basketball under-18 3-on-3 tournament in Colorado Springs, she tore the ACL and MCL in her right knee, which kept her out for much of her junior year.

The Arlington, Virginia, native came back from the injury to become a McDonald’s All-American during her senior season at St. John’s before heading to UConn as the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2021.

Fudd got off to a fast — and expected — start with the Huskies, recording 18 points on 6-9 shooting from beyond the arc in her third game. She then sat out for two months due to a foot injury, one that coach Geno Auriemma said had been bothering her since the summer before her freshman year.

Still, the guard played her best basketball of the season when she came back from the foot injury. She recorded a breakout game against Tennessee on Feb. 6, in which she scored 25 points and went 7-9 from beyond the arc. Fudd followed that up with 29 points against Villanova and then 24 against Marquette.

She finished an impressive freshman campaign averaging 12.1 points per game and shooting 43% from beyond the arc. Her play earned Fudd a spot on the 2022 Big East All-Freshman Team.

Heading into her sophomore season, expectations were high for Fudd, given her talent, accolades, and the absence of junior guard Bueckers.

Fudd delivered, opening the season with 26 points, 6 steals and 4 assists against Northeastern. Fudd scored 32 points in her next two games, highly-anticipated contests against top-25 teams Texas and NC State.

With injuries ravaging the UConn roster – Ice Brady was ruled out for the year, Caroline Ducharme was limited due to neck stiffness, Dorka Juhasz broke her thumb, and of course, Bueckers remained out – Fudd was the guiding force that kept the Huskies on track, and undefeated, until they played Notre Dame on Dec. 4.

In the second quarter, Fudd was setting up a play behind Aaliyah Edwards. The forward fell back and made contact with Fudd’s knee. In visible pain, Fudd went to the bench and then to the locker room. UConn announced Tuesday that the sophomore guard would miss three to six weeks, putting her on pace for a mid-January return.

Fudd’s setback is the latest in a string of bad-luck injuries for UConn.

Without the sophomore, the Huskies have three healthy guards available to play in Nika Muhl, Lou Lopez Senechal and Ines Bettencourt. Muhl and Lopez Senechal have played significant minutes this season, but Bettencourt has not, averaging just 5.5 per game.

After those three, there is Ducharme, whose neck stiffness has been a constant issue, limiting her production.

While the team must contend with the lack of depth at guard, UConn should be getting one of their forwards back soon. Juhasz, who played just two games before breaking her thumb, is day-to-day and could play as soon as Thursday, when the Huskies take on Princeton. That will be a “game-time decision,” associate head coach Chris Dailey said.

Fudd is UConn’s leading scorer this season (20.6 points per game), but their next top three scores are still available – Lopez Senechal (17.4), Edwards (15.7) and Aubrey Griffin (11.7). Juhasz is fifth on the list, averaging 10 points and 10 rebounds in UConn’s opening two contests.

With a slew of injuries dominating all UConn-related headlines, it’s easy to think that the sky is falling for the program. But, with last season as evidence, that is not necessarily the case.

Winning games in the present does get more difficult, but the season is played for March. In 2021-22, Bueckers missed a significant chunk of the season, then Fudd was hurt, then Muhl. At one point, UConn had just seven players available.

The Huskies lost an unprecedented five games in the regular-season, including a 72-69 home loss to unranked Villanova. But in the end, all the questions about UConn didn’t matter. Bueckers and Fudd returned and the Huskies made a run to the national title game, where they fell to South Carolina.

The same could happen this year. Bueckers won’t return, but Fudd is expected back in mid-January at the latest, so the team will have more than a month to get her reacclimated before the postseason. With Fudd, the Huskies were No. 3 in the country, so when she returns, there is no reason they can’t reach the same heights.

In her absence, other players will get more opportunities to hone their skills for the postseason. And even if UConn has a losing skid without Fudd, they’ve already notched enough high-caliber wins that their résumé for March will remain strong.

If Fudd comes back when the timeline says she will, then all the concerns raised in her absence may not mean anything.

KC Current GM Camille Ashton Resigns

KC Current GM Camille Ashton
Former KC Current GM Camille Ashton left the undefeated organization early this week. (Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)

Kansas City Current general manager Camille Ashton has resigned, the club announced Wednesday.

The staffing shakeup comes as somewhat of a surprise after the Current started off the season undefeated under new head coach Vlatko Andonovski, sitting second in the NWSL standings through 10 games.

No further details were given about her departure, other than that the club "wishes her the best in her future endeavors."

"I am thankful for my time in Kansas City," Ashton said in a team statement. "It was important to me to dedicate my time and efforts to ensure a successful 2024 season by building the championship-caliber roster that's currently near the top of the table. I am proud of what we have accomplished here. I look forward to the next step in my personal and professional journey."

Ashton, who played in the league from 2014-17, helped rebuild the Current roster, including picking up then-free agent Debinha in 2023 — the biggest free agency signing of that offseason. This past offseason, she brought in international players Temwa Chawinga and Bia Zaneratto

But the club has also encountered some rough patches throughout Ashton's tenure. Following her daughter's dismissal from the Current last year, mother of 2023 draft pick Mykiaa Minniss also accused the club of mistreatment during the preseason. While both the league and NWSL Players Association looked into the comments, no formal reprimand or consequences were publicly issued.

Players like Lynn Williams, Alex Loera, and Cece Kizer voiced concerns over what they described as unexpected trades, with Kizer adding that there was "no conversation this could happen." Williams, meanwhile, was informed of her trade moments prior to its execution while she was in New Zealand with the USWNT.

"There could be a lot of debate about that on its own, but at the end of the day, that’s the mechanism that we work with right now in the league," Ashton told reporters earlier this year when quested about the Current's player trade procedures.

While the club made an NWSL championship appearance in 2022 — the year Ashton came on as general manager — the 2023 season kicked off with the team firing head coach Matt Potter just three games into the season and hours before a road game. 

At the time, the club cited "issues around his leadership and employment responsibilities" as the reasoning, though players were reportedly confused with the decision making.

Last October, the Current hired former UWSNT coach Vlatko Andonovski as head coach, in addition to giving him the title of "sporting director." Whether or not that role overlapped with Ashton’s responsibilities as general manager was cause for some speculation.

NWSL Honors UWSNT Great Lauren Holiday With Impact Award

Lauren Holiday at nwsl impact award event
USWNT legend Lauren Holiday has long been involved with social activism off the pitch. (NWSL)

The NWSL announced today that the annual civically focused Nationwide Community Impact Award would now be known as the Lauren Holiday Award in honor of the National Soccer Hall of Famer.

Since 2021, the award has recognized one NWSL player each season for their character and contributions to community service off the pitch, according to a league release. The winner of the newly retitled award receives $30,000 toward a charitable organization of their choice.

"The NWSL is proud to honor Lauren Holiday as the namesake of this award recognizing exemplary athletes and their commitment to service and activism," said NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman. "Lauren’s influential work in the community and her outstanding character both on and off the field epitomize the values we look to uphold and celebrate in the NWSL every day. 

"I can think of no one more deserving of this recognition than Lauren and look forward to seeing the continued positive impact this program has on our clubs and communities with her example guiding our efforts."

In a statement, Holiday said that throughout her career she has always "believed in the power of giving back and creating positive change." A two-time Olympic gold medalist, World Cup winner, and former NWSL MVP, Holiday founded the Jrue & Lauren Holiday Social Impact Fund alongside husband and fellow professional athlete JRue Holiday.

The fund contributes to programs that combat systemic racism and socioeconomic inequality. Holiday has also long been an advocate for legislation to help close the racial inequality gap in maternal health.

"This award is a testament to the important work that athletes are doing to strengthen and uplift their communities every day and I am deeply humbled to take on its namesake," Holiday said. "I hope it inspires others to continue their efforts in making a lasting impact on the lives of those around them."

Waylaid Seattle Rookie Nika Mühl Makes WNBA Debut

seattle storm's nika muhl guarding indiana fever's caitlin clark
Mühl spent her first few pro minutes repeating her college assignment: guarding Caitlin Clark.(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Seattle rookie Nika Mühl made her long awaited WNBA debut in last night’s 85-83 win over Indiana after missing the first four games of the season due to visa issues. 

A Croatian national, Mühl had been waiting on P-1 visa approval in order to work legally in the US. While the paperwork came through Friday, she had to travel to Canada in order to get her status changed.

The former UConn star poked fun at the delay ahead of the game, walking into Climate Pledge Arena wearing a t-shirt displaying her approved visa.

Mühl checked into the game on Monday in the third period to a standing ovation, immediately diving over the baseline to save a loose ball. She spent her first few minutes of the game the same way she completed her career at UConn: guarding Caitlin Clark

Mühl, who had two rebounds in two and a half minutes, held Clark to five points, a rebound, and a turnover when the two were matched up. 

"I threw her in the fire," Storm coach Noelle Quinn said with a smile after the game. "It’s tough to come into the game at that rate and think that you’re going to stop the player, but I like… her physicality, her poise, her confidence. She took an open shot and I thought that was a great look for her. We’ll continue to put her in the mix in practice, and she’ll have opportunities to show what she can do on the defensive end to start."

An instant fan favorite, the UConn star donned the No. 1 jersey — in part because her usual No. 10 was retired by Seattle after Sue Bird, who wore it for her entire WNBA career, retired last year. Mühl's new number was chosen by none other than Bird herself. 

"I actually FaceTimed Sue and asked her what number I should wear. She took a day to think about it and came back to me with an answer of No. 1," Muhl said in a WNBA video posted to social media. "When I asked her why No. 1, she basically said 'This is a new beginning, but you’re not starting from scratch.' I loved that whole analogy and story, so Sue actually picked it and I love it."

WNBA Confirms Toronto Expansion Team for 2026

Fans at a game between the Chicago Sky and the Minnesota Lynx in Toronto
Canadian fans asked and the WNBA delivered: Toronto's getting a team. (Jordan Jones/NBAE via Getty Images)

The WNBA is officially expanding to Toronto, with the league announcing its 14th franchise early Thursday. 

Kilmer Sports Ventures has been awarded the team, said WNBA commissioner Cathy Englebert at a press conference attended by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ontario Premier Doug Ford, and others. 

"Growing internationally, I’ve been trying to think through next steps on a global platform," Engelbert told the Associated Press ahead of the official announcement. "It helps us reach new audiences and bring in new partners. The thing I love about going to another country is that the young girls and boys get to see professional basketball for women is important, too."

The CBC was the first to report on the expansion franchise back on May 10th. 

With the Golden State Valkyries set to begin play next year, the Toronto franchise will begin play in 2026. The goal, per the WNBA, is to then add two more franchises by 2028 for a total of 16. 

Toronto will play at Coca-Cola Coliseum, which holds 8,700 seats. On occasion, the team will play games in Scotiabank Arena. The WNBA has previously hosted sold-out preseason games at Scotiabank Arena and Edmonton’s Rogers Place. There are also plans to play games in Vancouver and Montreal, according to majority owner Larry Tanenbaum. 

This will be the first WNBA franchise outside of the United States, and joins PWHL Toronto as just the second professional women’s sports team in the city.

"Our Toronto sports franchises are thriving but, we have been missing one critical piece — women’s professional sports," Tanenbaum told the AP. "The world is finally taking notice of something that’s been there all along — the immense talent, passion and competition in women’s sports. 

"I saw an opportunity and knew we were in the right place at the right time to bring Canada’s first WNBA team to Toronto. And now we have, making sports history."

Similar to Golden State, the Toronto franchise paid a $50 million expansion fee. They’ve also committed to building a dedicated practice facility, but will train at the University of Toronto’s Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport in the meantime. 

"Women’s sports is good business," Tanenbaum said. "Just look around — it’s not a moment, but a movement and it’s just the beginning."

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