ALBANY, N.Y. -- About two dozen media members with either cameras, microphones, or tape recorders were waiting for her inside the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's locker room Friday.
Then, in walked Azura Stevens, sporting her best and biggest smile.
"Why would I dread this?" Stevens said with a laugh.
The Huskies' redshirt junior forward, who played her first two seasons at Duke before transferring to UConn, had three days to prepare for the onslaught and she was ready.
The tougher part comes Saturday when the top-seeded Huskies face No. 5 Duke in an NCAA tournament Albany Regional semifinal at the Times Union Center.
"It's being made into me versus their team or them, but it is my team versus Duke," Stevens said. "Personally for me, the last time I was in the Sweet 16 was my freshman year, so it's really exciting to be here with this team. It's really going to be fun.
"We're not doing anything different. We're excited for the special moment of being in the Sweet 16. We are preparing just like any other team that we would prepare for. We're not doing anything out of the ordinary."
Stevens was an all-Atlantic Coast Conference performer at Duke before leaving in 2016. In her first season with the Huskies after sitting out last year due to NCAA transfer rules, the American Athletic Conference's Sixth Man Award winner and Newcomer of the Year is averaging 15.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 2.0 blocked shots. She was also the Most Outstanding Player at the AAC tournament held at Mohegan Sun Arena.
In the Huskies' Storrs sub-regional wins over Saint Francis and Quinnipiac, she averaged 20.0 points on 72.7 percent shooting from the floor and 5.5 rebounds.
"Every game is a team effort, and that is one of the things I really love about this team," Stevens said. "On any given night, anybody can go off and kind of be that X-factor. I do try to bring my size in to help the team in that sort of way. So defensively I am protecting the rim and offensively being able to score at ease around the basket."
The Raleigh, North Carolina, native will be the second player to transfer in to UConn and face her former team in the NCAA tournament. The first was another transfer from Duke, Brittany Hunter, who played five minutes against the Blue Devils and did not score in an overtime loss in the 2006 Bridgeport Regional final.
UConn has won eight straight against Duke since.
"As a player and being someone on this team, Z is part of UConn and that's kind of the end of it for our team," UConn guard Katie Lou Samuelson said. "She's a part of this team, and this is just a game that we have to play. For her, clearly there is stuff there that's different. But I think the biggest thing for her is that she is playing in the Sweet 16, and she hasn't played in one since her freshman year so it is exciting for her.
"I don't think it will faze her. I think she'll play as well as she has been playing if not better. If she uses that as motivation, that will be better for us. If not, I think she will just play as well as she has been playing every game this year."
That's what UConn coach Geno Auriemma is counting on.
After the Huskies and Blue Devils advanced Monday night, Auriemma said he would talk with Stevens about the upcoming showdown.
"I would think it's natural that you'd have some kind of emotional connection," Auriemma said. "But my message was simply I don't think they're going to feel bad if they beat us, and you're going to do whatever you need to do to help us win. There's plenty of time for all the other stuff, but not when the game starts ... I said, 'Hey, they've been really good since you left, so maybe they're happy that you left.' I try to do whatever I can to get her going."
It will be the first meeting between UConn and Duke since Dec. 29, 2014, when the Huskies routed the Blue Devils 83-52 at the XL Center. Duke's leading scorer that night was Stevens with 16 points. The only other player on the Blue Devils' roster to see action was guard Rebecca Greenwell.
"I don't have any bad blood with Azura," Greenwell said. "She's a great person, a great player. We know her game really well, so I think that will play into our favor a little bit. We know her tendencies. But we don't have bad blood. So I'm excited about the opportunity to play her."
About the only thing Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie had to say was to claim she was misquoted in a 2016 question-and-answer session with The Chronicle at Duke University, comments that were critical of Auriemma and the Huskies' decision to accept transfers.
UConn not only welcomed Stevens that summer, but Kentucky transfer Batouly Camara.
"I did not make those remarks. That's what the media wrote," McCallie said. "I guess that happens sometimes. All I'll say is I'm very proud of Azura. What she's done is amazing. She's a very, very good player, and she's going to be a big headache for us tomorrow."
UConn hopes its balanced attack will cause the Blue Devils headaches.
Duke is led by its fifth-year senior guards Greenwell and Lexie Brown.
"You watch them play, and they're really, really good," Auriemma said. "They're the heart and soul of that team. They play well together, they complement each other great. They're able to sometimes single-handedly win games for them."
Second-seeded South Carolina and No. 11 Buffalo open Saturday's regional semifinal doubleheader at 11:30 a.m. Saturday's winners will play for a spot in the Final Four Monday night.