UConn women’s 2024 signees hope to be next Bueckers and Fudd

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Storrs, Connecticut is more than 3,000 miles from Morgan Cheli‘s hometown of San Jose, California, but the No. 18 prospect in the Class of 2024 knew as soon as she set foot on campus that she wanted to spend her college career with UConn women’s basketball.

“I basically chose the opposite coast, but when I went there, I loved it,” Cheli said. “Everything — the atmosphere, the people — so it wasn’t really much of a decision once I loved it so much … It’s hard kind of when you have such high expectations, but (I) actually had them exceeded, and in more ways than one, so I’m really excited.”

The reputation that precedes coach Geno Auriemma’s program also helped him land Allie Ziebell, the No. 4 recruit in the class. Ziebell is from Neenah, Wisconsin and led Neenah High School to the Division I state championship game in her senior season. The six-foot guard boasts elite efficiency, especially as an outside threat, averaging 27.5 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3 assists in 2023-24.

“I don’t think it was really that challenging for me (to decide). Growing up, I always loved UConn,” Ziebell said. “Then just taking visits and seeing if that really was the right place for me, when I went there it was everything and more … I just fell in love with the people, their work ethic and everything they stand for.”

Ziebell and Cheli will both compete for Team West in the McDonald’s All-American game Tuesday at the Toyota Center in Houston, continuing a four-year streak of UConn commits participating in the prestigious game. The Huskies have had at least two incoming freshmen selected for the game every year since Aubrey Griffin was the lone representative in 2019. For the duo of future Huskies, the team’s current stars are the blueprint they hope to follow.

“Watching her play and how versatile she is and how she fills up a stat sheet, that’s what I want to do,” Cheli said. “That’s what I feel like I can kind do as well just with my versatility, so I love watching her play. I mean, I love watching everybody play on UConn obviously, but (I love) the way she just gets after it and everything.”

While Cheli isn’t coming out of high school with the same hype that surrounded Bueckers as the top overall prospect in the Class of 2020, the comparison is far from baseless. At 6-2, Cheli has shades of the flexibility Bueckers has shown off this year to play both guard and forward, shfiting easily between on- and off-ball play. She averaged 15 points, 7.3 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 3.1 steals in her final high school season to lead Archbishop Mitty to a No. 1 national ranking. She was also one of five finalists for the Naismith High School Player of the Year award.

UConn junior Azzi Fudd hasn’t had the college career that anyone hoped she would, but Ziebell still looks at the former No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2021 as the player she most hopes to emulate when she arrives in Storrs. Fudd’s first three years at UConn have been marred by injuries, first missing 11 games with a foot injury in 2021-22, then eight with a right knee injury last year before suffering a season-ending right ACL and medial meniscus tear in late November 2023.

“For me (it’s) also Azzi with just her ability to shoot and also be a leader,” Ziebell said. “I know she’s hurt right now, but just watching her lead and get through everything is really inspiring.”

Bueckers and Fudd were billed as the dynamic duo of the future for UConn when Fudd signed after Bueckers won Naismith Player of the Year as a freshman in 2021. However, the longtime friends have played just 17 games together in college because of injuries, and the 2024-25 season will likely be their last chance to get on the court as a pair before Bueckers declares for the WNBA Draft.

After starting the 2023-24 season 4-3, the Huskies returned to form behind Bueckers during the NCAA Tournament to reach the Elite Eight for the 28th time under Auriemma. The program graduates two senior starters, forward Aaliyah Edwards and point guard Nika Muhl, but Cheli and Ziebell will get the chance to play with both Bueckers next season. The star guard before March Madness that she plans to use her medical redshirt season of eligibility to chase the elusive NCAA championship she came to UConn to win.

“It’s so amazing just to see all the support women’s basketball has gotten … with so many eyes on it and people watching, supporting, doing everything they can go be a part of it,” Ziebell said. “I know a lot of people have said recently that they enjoy watching women’s (basketball) more than the men’s just because it’s so skilled, and people are starting to realize that, so I think we’re coming in at a great time.”



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