CARY — With a fractured left fibula suffered just weeks before her junior year, Cary High girls’ basketball center Azura Stevens sometimes came home emotionally spent after games in which she could only watch. She sometimes cried. But dealing with the first big injury of her life helped transform the senior into one of the nation’s top college prospects. .
Stevens bought books and learned more about how to be a leader and teammate from the bench.
“It’s so hard to sit there and watch. You see your team maybe struggling but you can’t help them out except maybe verbally,” Stevens said.
Stevens pressed to rejoin the team by the end of last season, playing in six games and averaging 13.7 points and 6.5 rebounds – less than half of the 30.7 points and 18.5 rebounds she’s averaging through 14 games this year.
“If I could go back, I probably wouldn’t have come back as much as I did. I rushed too much,” Stevens said. “I took maybe a good month off. After that, I was back in the gym every day working out.”
The 6-foot-5 Duke recruit has been outstanding and leads the area in scoring and rebounding.
It’s gotten to the point that a 34-point, 15-rebound performance in a 68-62 loss to Apex had Cougars coach Jay Huffman praising his team’s defense of Stevens. Apex ran a triangle-and-two defense with two players shadowing Stevens. Her points were mostly from offensive rebounds.
“She’s got a lot of talent. She gets you points where you don’t normally get points, like offensive rebounds on free throw misses,” said Cary coach Pat Daly. “She’s not a stat kid at all. She’s a total team player. She wants to win. She’s a competitor.”
Towering over her opponents, she can post up or let others take the shots and go on a rebound-and-putback binge. Or, she can step out and get hot from 3-point range.
She can also bring the ball up court or pull up for a mid-range jump shot.
“My dad and I used to always work on dribbling and my (shooting) from when I first started playing. My dad used to always tell me, even if I get taller, I’ll still always have those two important aspects in my game,” Stevens said. “Really, it just came from me not wanting to be an average tall player or just a girl who was good because she plays inside, but a girl who has a skill set as well as height.
“I love the feeling of people saying I’m a good player, not just a tall player.”
Blake: 919-460-2606; Twitter: @JMBpreps