Azura Stevens Benefits From Hard Work
For Azura Stevens (Duke/Raleigh, N.C.) making the 2015 USA Basketball U19 World Championship Team was the result of hard work and dedication.
In 2014, Stevens attended the 2014 USA Basketball U18 Team trials. Although she was not announced as a member of the team, she made it a priority to learn and grow from the experience.
“After I found out that I did not make it, I contacted the committee to see what things I could work on then going into my season at Duke,” said Stevens. “I said I was going to work really hard on specifically those things then, next year come back and play. It helped me more with my confidence coming back, working on certain things that were my weakness. I was able to come back and just attack, showcase everything that I could do.
“A lot of (what they told me to work on) were post moves and strength things like rebounding, but really just strength because that has always been a weakness of mine,” said Stevens of what she focused on after the trials. “That was something that I keyed in on last summer.”
Following the summer, Stevens made her debut at Duke University, where as a freshman she helped the Blue Devils to a 23-11 record and the 2015 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 while averaging team-best 14.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.
“A collection of that and all the training that I have done in my past years,” allowed for her breakout season at Duke, she said. “But I was really determined that summer to grow as a player. I knew going into my freshman year that that would be a challenge, so I tried to embrace that as much as I could.”
Continued hard work produced six all-time freshman records, including field goals made (194), rebounds (271), offensive rebounds (120), double-digit scoring games (28), double-doubles (10) and double-figure rebound games (12).
“Just setting goals for myself and always trying to get better with each and every game. My shot may not be falling, I may be missing lay-ups, but I continue to say ‘hey, I am going to get this amount of rebounds this game, if I am not scoring, or I am going to get this amount of points. I am going to spread the floor. Or I am going to try to find this person whenever I can.’ I try to set goals.”
Stevens returned to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado after her record-breaking 2014-15 season, to achieve the goal of making a USA Basketball team. After three days of trials, she was named to the 2015 USA Basketball U19 World Championship Team on May 17.
But she did not stop once the goal was achieved. A day after the announcement, Stevens went back to school where she continued to train for the new goal she set for herself – to a win a gold medal.
“I went home and trained. I live like 15 or 20 minutes away from Duke, so I was there every day lifting on off-days then running on other days. I was really trying to get in shape for the altitude and overseas play. I was trying to get in shape and work on my shots. I was really focused on getting stronger and getting in shape.”
Now, at training camp with her teammates, Stevens is determined to become a better leader for her team.
“I want to work on continuing to talk. That is something that I know I will have to do when I get back to Duke. I started doing it last year, but it will be really important this year. I also want to grow as a leader, on the court and off the court. I want to grow in that aspect because I will be one of the returners on Duke’s team, we do not have very many, we have a loft of new freshman. I want to work on becoming a leader.”
Surrounded by gold medalists, seven of her teammates have played for USA Basketball in the past, Stevens still admits the reality that she will be competing in an international event this summer has not hit her.
“I don’t think it has hit me that I am going to be doing it. Being here has been awesome so far. I am really excited to finish up practice here then get on the road.“
The USA U19 World Championship team will compete in the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship, hosted from July 18- 26 in Chekhov, Russia.