STORRS, Conn. - .Azura Stevens transferred to UConn in 2016 after playing her first two collegiate seasons at Duke where she earned all-Atlantic Coast Conference first-team honors. As a freshman, she had a team high 16 points in the Blue Devils' 83-52 loss to the Huskies on Dec. 30, 2014. The 6-foot-6 wing from Raleigh, North Carolina, sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules and has two years of eligibility remaining. Stevens recently took a time out to answer five questions from SNYUConn.com reporter Carl Adamec.
1. You wore uniform No. 11 during your time at Duke and you chose to wear No. 23 here. Why, and are you aware of the importance of that uniform number in UConn history?
"I wore 23 in high school so I decided to go back to that number. I am aware of the history of that number here. Arguably the greatest player in the history of this program, Maya Moore, wore this number. So I definitely get some chills looking at that number here. I don't feel pressure with it, though. Playing up to being a UConn player is enough."
2. You just said it again and one of the things you spoke about last year was becoming and playing like a "UConn player." What does playing like a UConn player mean to you?
"It means competing and fighting on every possession. It means that every little thing counts. Every day in practice everything we do is taken seriously. This isn't a place where you just run through things in practice and turn a switch on when it comes to games. Practice is at least competitive as a game and that helps you build a mindset that no matter who you're playing, where you're playing, or what you're doing, you're going to compete and give your best at all times. Yes, it's hard to reach that level. It's every single play of every single day, every single minute and it's asking a lot. But once you get past that original feeling where you might be uncomfortable with it and just trust the process, you play at a certain level all the time."
3. How hard was it to sit at the end of the bench and watch games last season as you sat out?
"I definitely missed playing in games last year and it's almost like I've forgotten what it's like because it has been so long. But it's about building that intensity in practice and that you're ready and the intensity will carry over into the game. Our first game is Sunday against Stanford and I'm looking forward to it. There's going to be a lot of excitement and there will be a lot of work to do leading up to it to be ready."
4. What do you want to add to this new team on and off the court?
"On the court, I want to add a down-low presence. I want to be someone who owns the paint on offense and on defense. I want to make sure that I do it at both ends, not only scoring but protecting the rim defensively. I want to be another rebounder. Off the court, I want to add my personality, charisma (smiles). I like to have a good time and hang out with people and make them smile. We have a great group of people here that were accepting and welcoming of me. I played against a couple of them my freshman year, so I didn't think that would be a barrier coming in even though I didn't really know many of them well. I enjoy building friendships and I'm building relationships that I'm sure will last the three years that I'll be here."
5. You got to see Geno Auriemma from the outside at Duke and from the inside here at UConn. Is there anything about your coach that you would have never believed about him 18 months ago?
"I don't know. He's a chill person, just not always at practice. But Coach is great at what he does. When I first saw him before I got here I thought he was this really intense guy. And he is like that during practice. But last Thanksgiving a couple of us went over to his house for dinner and it was great to enjoy one of my favorite holidays with him and watch him interact with his children and grandchildren. It was awesome to see him in that light."
UConn's four returning starters took turns this week being chosen to watch lists for WBCA awards. On Thursday, junior All-American Napheesa Collier was named as a candidate for the 2018 Katrina McClain Award, which recognizes the top power forward in the country. On Wednesday, senior All-American Gabby Williams was named as a candidate for the 2018 Cheryl Miller Award that honors the nation's top small forward. On Tuesday, junior All-American Katie Lou Samuelson was named as a candidate for the 2018 Ann Meyers Drysdale Award that recognizes the nation's top shooting guard. On Monday, senior Kia Nurse was named as a candidate for the 2018 Nancy Lieberman Award that honors the nation's top point guard.