UConn’s teary-eyed night: Paige Bueckers and her mother Amy won’t forget what it took to get here

Mirror Sports US covered the Big East Tournament from Uncasville, Connecticut, this past week as UConn star Paige Bueckers reached an emotional milestone after a long injury recovery.

UConn star Paige Bueckers’ mother, Amy Fuller, wiped away tears as she watched commissioner Val Ackerman present her with the Big East Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award on Monday night.

Fuller waited two agonizing years to see Bueckers back at the pinnacle of the conference. Bueckers missed almost 600 days between competitive games because of an ACL injury, returning at the start of this season with some trepidation about her health.

As Bueckers worked off the rust in November and early December, she admitted feeling immense stress and pressure to return to her pre-injury performance level. Her support system, Fuller included, had to watch the 22-year-old fight to regain her joy.

Paige Bueckers will return to the UConn women's basketball team for the 2024-25 season.

A mid-December win over North Carolina provided a turning point for Bueckers.

She finally let loose. “Today, I just got back to trying to have fun playing the game of basketball, just competing, having fun competing, that’s what I love to do,” the guard said at the time.

Scoring 27 points in Monday’s Big East Tournament final, a 78-42 win over Georgetown, let Bueckers, her mother and teammates reflect on the full scope of her grueling journey back to 100 percent.

Bueckers played with freedom against the Hoyas, delivering highlights both from beyond the arc and in the paint. On one first-half play, she drained a 3-pointer while drawing a foul and landed on her backside. It was a shot so ridiculous that injured teammate and close friend Azzi Fudd burst into laughter from her spectator spot near the bench.

Paige Bueckers and Nika Muhl are extremely close friends, and their time playing together is nearly over.

Like her mother, Bueckers shed tears after the game. Those waterworks came at the postgame podium when a reporter asked about her bond with teammate Nika Muhl, who recently announced she would leave the program after the season.

Muhl was one of the people who provided Bueckers with emotional support during her injury rehab.

So, the Minnesota native’s mind returned to how she pushed through her darkest days, how members of the UConn program solidified themselves as extended family.

“This is like my sister, my twin,” Bueckers said as Muhl rubbed her back. “She’s been there for me through everything that I’ve been through.”

Paige Bueckers received the Big East Tournament Most Outstanding Player trophy on Monday night.

Muhl cried, too, as she spoke about the emotional roller coaster of the past year, which has included an astounding number of season-ending injuries to key players.

The Croatia-born player will depart following this campaign – a decision made more challenging by her tight bond with Bueckers. “It’s just a feeling,” Muhl said through tears, “when it’s time for you to leave.”

Given the emotions that flowed Monday night, UConn desperately needed the extended break between the Big East Tournament and the NCAA Tournament, which will begin next week. The Huskies can reset.

Regardless of whether head coach Geno Auriemma’s short-handed team wins a national championship – which remains the ambition – the players will cherish their conference title as proof the UConn family can withstand adversity. They fought hard to get here.

“Having six, seven available players today, seven on the bench, that’s ridiculous,” Muhl said. “To be able to pull it off the way we pulled it off with the help of everybody in the gym, it was so loud, it was so electric.

We were just feeding off of that, feeding off of each other, and yeah, this [conference title] is probably the most special one [of my career].”

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