Azurá Stevens reflects on her first USA camp in five years

“I’m all about learning from people’s experiences,” Stevens said. “That’s important to do in life, not just in basketball. Specifically in basketball, though, these women have achieved things I want to achieve.”

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Azurá Stevens helped lead Team USA’s 2015 U19 squad to a World Championship title with two-time NCAA championship winning coach Dawn Staley at the helm.

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Team USA training camp in Minneapolis felt familiar to Azurá Stevens.

It had been seven years since Stevens played for Team USA and five since she participated in a camp. Still, her teammates, the atmosphere and a nearby coach were all reminders of the evolution that occurs when the opportunity arises. In 2015, Stevens played for Team USA’s U19 squad led by Olympic gold medalist Dawn Staley.

Stevens helped lead that 2015 team to its sixth consecutive U19 Women’s Worlds Championship title. Last Sunday, Staley led South Carolina to its second national championship, beating UConn 64-49 in Minneapolis, becoming the first Black coach of a Division I basketball program, men’s or women’s, to win two national titles.

Stevens, a graduate of UConn, wasn’t happy that the Huskies lost but was thrilled for Staley.

“To see her do that was awesome for women but especially Black women,” Stevens said. “Black women are awesome. I want to put that on the record. They don’t get the credit they deserve. I’m all for her and [the South Carolina program].”

Stevens can remember vividly dreaming of playing in the WNBA, but her goals for the national team were less clear. She doesn’t have memories of her younger self thinking she’d play on Team USA. Watching the Olympics with her family growing up sparked those dreams.

At camp, Stevens’ focus was simple. She wanted to grow. She said she’s not the kind of person to force situations or conversations, allowing them instead to happen naturally.

Having detailed discussions with coaches, veterans and retired players was part of her plan to leave camp better than when she arrived. This year, conversations with Angel McCoughtry, Delisha Milton Jones and Taj McWilliams-Franklin resonated with her.

“I’m all about learning from people’s experiences,” Stevens said. “That’s important to do in life, not just in basketball. Specifically in basketball, though, these women have achieved things I want to achieve.”

Navigating outsiders’ opinions and rebounding mentally and physically after an injury were two of the valuable lessons Stevens learned.

After having surgery following the 2020 WNBA season, Stevens started the 2021 season on a minutes restriction. By the end of the year, she played without restriction and averaged 9.8 points (on 47.7% shooting) and 7 rebounds through the playoffs.

Last season was the first Stevens fully completed since her rookie season, and that accomplishment felt huge for her. Going into the offseason, she focused on accepting her limitations after having surgery. She said while playing overseas, she sat down and processed many thoughts about her surgery which allowed her to be more in tune with her body.

Sky training camp is a week away, and Stevens will be in town on Day 1. She’s coming in with a new bag of life lessons at her disposal.

“You can’t have everything figured out,” Stevens said. “Take the time to listen to how you’re feeling and make a plan accordingly. I’m the type of person that always wants to have a plan, and life isn’t like that. I’m learning to be like water.”

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