You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Dom Amore: Jordan Hawkins, Azzi Fudd, D.C. shooting stars who hold keys to UConn’s Sweet 16 chances

Hartford Courant logoHartford Courant 3/22/2023 Dom Amore, Hartford Courant

LAS VEGAS — After his second straight scalding second half, Jordan Hawkins earned the nickname “Air Fryer” from his UConn men’s basketball teammate Andre Jackson Jr.

“We get him the ball and he can get hot fast,” Jackson said Sunday night. “You see one go in, the next three, four or five go in, too.”

A night after that, UConn went out of the fryer and into the fire.

Azzi Fudd torched the UConn women’s opponent, Baylor, with 16 points in the third quarter. Her teammate, Aubrey Griffin, tried to extend the monniker to her.

“Oh, no. I can’t take the air fryer title,” Fudd told reporters in Storrs Monday night. “That’s all Jordan.”

‘The return of Azzi Fudd is finally here’: How the UConn women’s star found her shooting stroke in time to lead Huskies into Sweet 16

They both came to UConn from the DMV, the D.C. area, where they played for rival, powerhouse high schools: Hawkins at DeMatha Catholic, Fudd at St. John’s. They both brought not only effective, but elegant, perimeter shooting to the Huskies; form you could watch all day and all night.

They also have this in common as both are about to embark on the Sweet 16: When they get hot, their teams are very, very hard to beat. The men have Arkansas on Thursday night in Las Vegas; the women have Ohio State in Seattle on Saturday.

“Azzi’s a great player, one of the best shooters I’ve ever seen,” Hawkins said. “It’s just the same shot every single time. She doesn’t let anybody affect her shot, she’s really good at that.”

So if Hawkins is the Air Fryer, what’s Azzi?

“She’s a way better shooter than me,” Hawkins said. “I don’t know, she’s way hotter than an Air Fryer.”

Hawkins, the 6-foot-5 sophomore, is shooting 40.5 percent from the floor, 37.8 on 3-pointers.

“One of the best pure shooters in college basketball,” Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said. “He’s got a quick release. He’s got a confident release.”

The postseason began with a short circuit, 4-for-17 on threes in the Big East Tournament, and an 0-for in the first half against Iona in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. But he scored 13 in the second half as the Huskies broke that game open. He did the same after a scoreless first half against St. Mary’s in the second round, hitting four threes in a row for 12 points in the second.

“He has this unique ability to move at a speed off of screens, using a stagger, using a pin, sprinting at full speed and getting into his shot in a fluid, athletic natural way you’re just not used to seeing at the college level,” coach Dan Hurley said. “Maybe you’re used to seeing it at the NBA level. Defenses wear down over time and that’s when he exposes people in the second half.”

Hawkins gives all the credit to “Pops,” his father, Craig, with teaching him his shot. Repeatable mechanics is the key to most things in sports, hitting or throwing a baseball, delivering a football with pinpoint accuracy, shooting a basketball.

“I’ve been doing it so long, it’s like second nature to me,” Hawkins said. “I just know when the ball’s going to go in and when it’s not. I know what to do when it’s going wrong.”

When it’s going right?

“You just want the ball,” Hawkins said. “You just feel like every shot is going to go in. You just want to take that next shot. You feel so high, like nothing’s going to stop you.”

Fudd was feeling it, too, telling her teammate, Aaliyah Edwards, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

Fudd’s parents, Katie and Tim, both basketball players, put the ball in her hands and taught her that fluid shot, released at its peak. She missed most of her sophomore year with knee injuries, and after returning in time for the Big East Tournament, needed a few games to find her rhythm. Still, she is shooting 46.6 percent, 35.2 on threes.

UConn women’s coach Geno Auriemma often says that Fudd is a player that can break open a close game in a hurry, which is exactly what she did against Baylor, recovering from a sluggish first half to score 22.

Jordan Hawkins combusts in second half, Karaban opens floodgates, and more from UConn men’s win over Saint Mary’s

“If she misses 100 shots that game, I would still get her the last shot for the win,” point guard Nika Muhl said. “That’s how good of a shooter she is. She is definitely the best shooter that I’ve ever played with. Her shot is perfect.”

Hawkins and Fudd are perfectionists, artists. And the artfulness of their shooting is now under the brightest lights. Once they start searing opponents, just get ’em the ball and let them turn up the heat.

“I’ll take Jordan shooting it as well as Azzi in this tournament,” Hurley said. “It enhances my chances against Arkansas. She’s unbelievable.”

©2023 Hartford Courant. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


More From Hartford Courant

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon