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ESPN Cover Story Visits HS Hoops Phenom Azzi Fudd’s Home Court reporter Katie Barnes observed COVID-19 guidelines while being granted unique access for their profile of UCONN women's basketball recruit

The latest multi-platform ESPN Cover Story featuring future UConn women’s basketball guard – and five-star recruit – Azzi Fudd debuted today on reporter Katie Barnes profiled Fudd, a Washington, D.C., star at St. John’s College High. They detail Fudd’s struggle to overcome ACL and MCL knee injuries.

Barnes provides Front Row with a behind-the-scenes look at what it was like to hang out with the teenage prodigy in the Fudds’ Virginia home.

You spent a few days with Azzi and her family (going to her practice, sitting down to dinner with them). Is that an unusual amount of access for a piece like this? How do you feel it benefitted the profile?
In every feature I work on, I always want as much access as possible. The opportunity to take readers inside an athlete’s life and share who they are as a person is one of the things that draws me to this style of reporting. With Azzi being the youngest athlete we’ve featured as a Cover Story, it provided a unique opportunity within this storytelling brand to really showcase who Azzi is along with her family. Azzi isn’t a pro yet; in many ways, she’s still a kid, so this is a truly authentic look at her life in a way that can be difficult to capture with professional athletes.

Azzi Fudd (John Loomis for ESPN)

I think the piece benefitted tremendously from the access we were granted, and it wasn’t just on the days I spent in Virginia. The Fudds have been open and flexible through this entire process. Always willing to answer a couple more questions or provide a photo. That openness has created an intimacy to this piece that is certainly unique among the stories I’ve worked on.

What did you learn in the process that you might have otherwise missed? Any fun behind-the-scenes anecdotes?
Azzi really likes to have fun! She and her brothers would be out in the yard filming TikTok videos and doing dances between TV interviews. She is mature beyond her years, but she’s also very much a teenager. As the oldest of three kids, I loved the moments where she would tease her brothers. The youngest, Jose’, practiced with her that day, and she talked so much trash when he guarded her. It was pretty funny.

What were the COVID protocols taken during the process?
I spent time with the Fudds in early October, and I’ll admit, I was a bit nervous. To control for COVID, I did not take any public transportation, and drove myself to the Fudds’ home in Virginia. While watching practice, I was masked and distanced. For the interviews themselves, I maintained a 6-feet minimum distance and was masked unless I was actively speaking on camera for the interview. All crew members wore masks for the entire time. I doubled up for much of the time, and then self-isolated upon my return in accordance with the Connecticut travel guidelines at that time.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Watch Cover Story here. For more on this story, visit ESPN PressRoom.

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