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Ex-Husky Azura Stevens focusing on the present, not the past as WNBA season approaches

May 14, 2019

UNCASVILLE — Azura Stevens does not operate in a world of hypotheticals.

It’s why she chooses not to think about what might’ve happened had she decided to stick around college another year instead of bolting to the pros.

“Honestly, I’ve moved on. I’m here now,” Stevens said Monday following the Dallas Wings preseason opener against the Atlanta Dream. “My thoughts and attention go here. We could say, ‘What if’ all day, but I made the decision. I left.

“I was just happy to see [my former college teammates] out there playing and having a good time.”

Stevens, a polished 6-foot-6 forward who had averaged 14.7 points and 7.4 rebounds as a junior, opted for the WNBA Draft over one final season at UConn. She ended up going No. 6 overall to Dallas, where she became a valuable contributor despite a somewhat limited role.

Her departure rang loudly at UConn. Without another steady post player to pair with All-American Napheesa Collier — who, despite standing just 6-1, averaged 10.8 rebounds as a senior — the team’s lack of height became a glaring weakness. And so, the Huskies won 35 games but lost in the Final Four for the third straight season.

Now, as she prepares for her second season with Dallas, Stevens isn’t second-guessing her decision to leave Storrs.

“Looking back at the situation, there were some things that I might’ve changed in the way I went about it, but some of those things, you just learn,” she said. “You go through experiences. I for sure don’t regret my decision. I did have a great time at UConn. I don’t regret going there, but I also don’t regret deciding to leave early.”

Stevens understands she surprised Geno Auriemma, who had brought her in from Duke in 2016, but said she appreciates how the Hall of Fame coach handled the news privately.

“I missed the people, I missed the team, I missed being around my friends all the time,” she said. “It’s a lot different here. I don’t see my friends as often as I used to.”

Stevens made the All-Rookie team in 2018, averaging 8.9 points and 4.6 rebounds despite starting just nine of the 34 games in which she played. A larger role awaits this season, this time with a different head coach.

“She can help, obviously, our length around the rim,” said Brian Agler, who coached last year with the Los Angeles Sparks. “She’s a versatile player. I thought last year she played better than I anticipated. I’m hoping that she’ll keep moving in that direction.”

An ankle injury prevented Stevens from participating in the team’s 82-59 preseason loss to Atlanta at Mohegan Sun Arena on Monday, however, Agler said he expects her to return to practice later this week.

This year feels different for Stevens, who, despite loads of promise, admitted to being overwhelmed at times as a rookie.

“Rookie year, you’re learning a lot and it goes by, it seems like, so fast. You’re just being thrown a lot of information, so it can be overwhelming at times,” she said. “But I think there’s a certain level of calmness that I have this year because I’ve been here for a year now. I kind of know what to expect. I think, having said that, the level of play is a little harder because people in the league know what you’re doing and it’s not like you’re surprising anyone. That’s on me to step my game up in that area.”

Her goal?

“Just be more of a threat, being less tentative,” she continued. “Just being on the attack mode.”

dbonjour@ctpost.com; @DougBonjour