Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)
Growing up in the Spring-Ford school district, Anna Azzara had plenty of inspiration for her Division I dreams.
Azzara remembers looking up to Sammy Stippa, who led the Rams to a state title before a standout career at Lafayette. When she arrived at Spring-Ford, Azzara guarded Lucy Olsen in practice before the Miss PA Basketball headed off to Villanova.
Now, Azzara is starting to realize she’s the one the next generation of Rams are looking up to.
Spring-Ford point guard Anna Azzara announced her commitment to Wright State on Wednesday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
The 5-foot-6 point guard announced her commitment to Wright State on Wednesday, joining the circle of Spring-Ford point guards to play at the highest level of college basketball
“Thinking about it is crazy because I was always one of those younger girls,” Azzara said. “It’s crazy to see like people could be looking up to me and Mac (Pettinelli) too.”
Azzara joins classmate and Comets teammate Mac Pettinelli, who committed to St. Bonaventure earlier this summer, in making her college commitment.
Wright State only started recruiting her in the last few weeks, but a visit to campus last Friday sold her on the program in Fairborn, Ohio. She had an offer from the College of Charleston and a few other programs reaching out. The trip convinced her to commit to coach Kari Hoffman on Monday.
“A lot of people say, ‘If you know, you know,’ and I just kind of knew,” Azzara said. “I left the school, and I was just like, ‘I love it.’ Like I can see myself here, playing basketball and it was great.”
“I think I was a little more set being closer to some but being there just completely shifted my mindset. I would still be playing basketball all the time even if I was closer to home. I just think the players you’re surrounded by, the coaches and the whole culture and everything, just playing basketball with them would be amazing.”
Azzara’s grandfather played at La Salle and her father, Joe, played at Ithaca. She said her passion and skills can certainly be attributed in part to them.
The Rams’ floor general will be a four-year varsity starter when she takes the floor for Spring-Ford this winter. She averaged 8.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg and 2.4 ppg alongside Olsen as a freshman on the Rams 2020-21 Pioneer Athletic Conference and District 1 champion and PIAA runner-up squad.
She’s been a two-way difference maker and the team’s top offensive threat in each of the past two seasons, averaging 14.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.9 apg and 1.8 spg as a sophomore to help lead a young Spring-Ford squad to a PAC title and run to the District 1-6A title game.
Her scoring, assist and steals numbers were even better this past season as she averaged 14.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 4.3 apg and 2.8 spg during another run to the district semifinals and state playoffs.
“Anna is someone who recognizes the talent she possesses, then invests hard work and time to develop her skills, and uses these skills to accomplish her goals and the team goals,” Spring-Ford coach Mickey McDaniel said.
“If you push Anna towards areas of improvement, she will then turn those needed areas of improvement into a strength.”
Wright State is coming off an 8-24 campaign in 2022-23 and is a combined 12-43 in Hoffman’s first two seasons. Before that, the Horizon League program had eight straight seasons of 19-or-more wins, including six of 23-or-more and three NCAA Tournament appearances. Azzara will look to bring some of the winning she is accustomed to back to Fairborn when she arrives on campus.
She said Hoffman has a fast-paced style that fits her game. The Raiders were second in Division I 3-pointers per game last season. Azzara has had plenty of practice pushing the pace and getting the ball to her shooters with the Rams over the last two seasons.
“They’re very guard-oriented like a five-out, four-out, fast-paced game,” Azzara said. “That’s something I play, and I always love playing. … They said I would fit their program perfectly, especially how fast I am and being able to score and get to the rim and also being able to distribute the ball.”
She said her quickness will help her game translate against size at the next level, and she’s had plenty of practice going up big, athletic lineups on the GUAA circuit with the Comets.
She’ll also bring offensive rebounding and defensive intensity that’s been carved out through her time with Spring-Ford and the Comtes. Then there's those intangibles like her love for the game.
“My work ethic, like I’m always willing to put in the work, and I always want to be there,” Azzara said. “I always want to play basketball.”
“Anna has come to understand it is important to have mental toughness and basketball IQ and to be sure they are in sync because that’s what leaders and impact players possess to raise the level of play of their team,” McDaniel said.
Azzara has unfinished business at Spring-Ford before her college career starts. She, Pettinelli and a strong 2024 class were denied a PAC threepeat by league rival and District 1 champion Perkiomen Valley last season. They are the two favorites in the league and amongst the top dogs in District 1 once again this season.
However the season plays out, Azzara has already left her mark on the program. She surpassed the 1,000-point milestone last season and is fifth on the Rams’ all-time list with a whole season left. Her commitment to play at the next level is another significant milestone in a career that's had plenty and should have plenty more.
“I couldn’t be here without Spring-Ford and Coach McDaniel and the Comets and Mrs. (Linda) Genther and of course my family and my teammates,” Azzara said.