8 Things to Know About UConn Basketball Star Paige Bueckers Right Now

Paige Bueckers

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When the women’s UConn basketball team heads to the court on Friday night, it’ll be the first time in 30 years they enter the NCAA Final Four as the underdog. While they missed out on the semifinals last year, they’re hoping to get back to the top spot for 2024—and they’re looking to their star guard, Paige Bueckers, to help lead them to it.

Injury kept Bueckers off the court for part of her collegiate career, but she’s coming into 2024 March Madness healthy and ready to bring it. Case in point: Bueckers scored seven points in the last decisive five minutes of the Elite Eight—and 28 overall—to secure the Huskies’ 80-73 victory over Southern California. “Today was Paige doing Paige things,” coach Geno Auriemma told the AP after the game.

She’ll have some competition in the Final Four though. The game’s set to be a showdown between two of the most buzzed-about college players ever: Bueckers and Iowa record-breaker Caitlin Clark. Before we see what history might be made on the court, here are a few fun facts about Bueckers to know first.

1. She racked up some impressive awards as only a freshman.

People were already talking about Bueckers in high school—ESPN ranked her as the top recruit of her year—but things were looking even brighter by the time she started playing for the Huskies.

In 2021, she became the first freshman to win the Naismith Player of the Year Award, a prize largely considered the top honor for NCAA basketball. It was a repeat of sorts for Bueckers: She was awarded the high school equivalent the previous year.

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She racked up more hardware during her first college year too. Bueckers also won the 2021 John R. Wooden Award, which goes to a college player considered “outstanding” for their on-court performance and character.

And just to put a tidy bow on her freshman awards season, Bueckers became the first freshman to win the Associated Press Women’s Basketball Player of the Year Award—an honor which, as a video of the announcement shows, brought her to tears.

2. Injuries kept her off the court for a chunk of her college career.

Bueckers suffered a knee injury and had ankle surgery in 2021, which sidelined her for half of her sophomore season. She also missed her entire junior season due to an ACL injury.

“The last couple years have been really challenging on my mental [health],” Bueckers said in a press conference after her team beat USC for a spot in the Final Four in early April, “I feel like I’ve had adversity thrown my way, but at the same time, I’m super blessed to be in the position [I’m in.]”

In particular, she credits her recovery in part to the support of her team, coaches, and school, and the medical care and rehab it provided.

“It could be easy for me to sulk and be upset and be sad about what life has thrown me the last couple years, or I can attack it with the mentality of being a leader.”

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