Everything To Know About Azura Stevens
By Dorothy J Gentry
Azura Stevens wants to be around for a while. “It’s a marathon. My career, I want it to be a marathon, not a sprint,” Stevens said.
And it’s this singular focus on a long, successful career that helped Stevens get to this point.
Earlier this year the Wings power forward – just like her favorite NBA player Kevin Durant – found herself faced with a life-altering decision to make.
UCONN had been eliminated by Notre Dame in the NCAA semifinals – their only loss in a 36-win season. Stevens had one year of eligibility left and – despite the whispers and opinions of others - decided to give it up and enter the WNBA Draft.
The 6-foot-6 junior, who played just one year at UConn after transferring from Duke, was selected No. 6 by the Wings and is well on her way to making her name in the league, knowing without a doubt she made the right decision.
“I’m 100 percent glad I made this decision because I think it’s a decision I made for me,” Stevens said recently after a Wings practice. “That’s just a sign, I guess, of my personal growth; listening to what it is I wanted to do.
“When I first made it, it was hard for me because I’m listening to what everyone else is saying and it was hard to block that out but you learn ways to say, you’re not going to let someone else’s opinions affect your happiness and your joy and what you know in your heart you can and will do.”
But it hasn’t been all peaches and cream.
“It’s been difficult, I’m not going to lie. I think just adjusting to the pace of play, the physicality, those are all things I knew going in but it’s different when you’re actually experiencing it,” Steven said. “That’s definitely been an adjustment.
“And I think just mentally trying to stay in the moment as much as I can. The season moves really fast so it’s kind of like you don’t have a lot of time to be thinking about three games ago. In college you have more space between games but now it’s like back to back, I haven’t done that since my AAU days really.”
Stevens made her grand debut for the Wings in the team’s first preseason game in May, leading the team to a 76-69 victory over the New York Liberty with 19 points and nine rebounds. She played well throughout the preseason and has since settled into the fast pace of the WNBA season. She has played in all eight games this season and in just over 18 minutes of action off the bench is averaging 5.6 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. She’s a 75-percent free throw shooter and shoots 35 percent from the field.
Stevens’ overall basketball IQ is great.
“She’s still learning our system, defensively she’s got blocked shots and open shots down to a science,” Wings coach Fred Williams said. “She’s been a great asset to our team and we look forward to seeing what she can do for us this season.”
Always wearing a smile and clearly the life of the Wings’ party along with teammate Kayla Thornton, Stevens talked with WNBAInsidr about going from college to the pros, remaining ready on the bench and how she relaxes.
On managing the transition: “Leaning on my teammates and the Wings staff as much as I can. Asking questions. Soaking things up. It’s really easy, I think, when you’re challenged or put in new situations to just kind of withdraw into yourself. I know for me sometimes that’s how I do things. But coming here I’ve tried to ask as many questions as I can. I always try to learn and grow in that type of way.”
On coming off the bench: “You have to know your role really well. I have recent experience coming off the bench at UCONN. You just find a way to make an impact with whatever time you get. My thing now is being aggressive. As a rookie I’ve been told by a lot of people and I’ve experienced it myself, everything is going fast and you’re like I don’t’ want to make any mistakes. But I’m trying to train myself to just be aggressive, to just come out and be aggressive. You know, If I’m doing something wrong, at least I’m doing it aggressively. We can work with that.
“But if I’m second-guessing and timid or not too sure, then that kinds of takes away from the energy so I’ve just been trying to work on bringing energy, cheering, talking more while I’m on the bench – whether I’m starting or not. And trying to bring energy and whatever I can with any minutes I get.”
On what aspect of her game she’s changed: “Obviously with Liz (Cambage) when we’re playing together, I need to stretch the D out and that’s kind of been my position now. With being here, it’s working on more specific areas of my craft with the perimeter. I worked a lot on my low-post game at UCONN but now I‘m working more on moves around the perimeter with threes, pullups, different things like that.”
On how she detoxes and relaxes: “After practice I’ll go home and watch Practical Jokers on TV, lay down and stare at my phone for a while, call a friend. I like to read so I’m reading several books right now: The Alchemist (a gift from Cambage) and The Mind of a Winner by Steve Canal (husband of Swin Cash). The book was a gift for all the draft picks.”
On her Wings teammates: “They’ve done a good job of welcoming me in. I’ve really enjoyed being here and getting to know everybody. It’s going by fast. I’m just trying to build relationships and soak it all in and enjoy it while it’s here. “
What’s on her playlist: “It fluctuates. I really like Butterfly Effect by Travis Scott, Kendrick Lamar and I’m a big fan of LeCrae as well. I listen to “Blessings” before each game.”
On her favorite player winning the NBA Championship and MVP: “It was so cool to see him thriving on the biggest stage after all the flack he’s gotten for his decision, and that’s one of the reasons I am a fan of (Kevin Durant).”
On rookie duties: “I help with the bags. I’ve got a crew now (other newbies Leticia Romero and Teana Muldrow) so we pass out the uniforms on the road and I’ll pass out water just for fun. I love working with this organization. The ideas they have, the style of play; I’m looking to stay here as long as I can.”