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Posted September 3, 2022 04:53 PM
PAIGE BUECKERS COMMITS TO RETURN TO UCONN: ‘I’M NOT LEAVING’
“Nah, yeah, I’m head coach,” Bueckers joked. “Coach [Auriemma] let me take his spot.”
UConn opens up its season Nov. 10 against Northeastern.
Paige Bueckers is committed to returning to UConn for the 2023-24 women’s college basketball season. She said Thursday that she will not declare for the 2023 WNBA draft despite being eligible.
She has three more years of NCAA eligibility remaining.
The UConn star and 2020-21 national player of the year will miss the upcoming season after tearing her ACL. She spoke Thursday with reporters in her first media appearance since before her August injury.
“I’m not leaving. That is not in question,” Bueckers said. “People asked me, ‘What are you thinking about fifth year, COVID year, redshirting this year.’ I’m not thinking too far ahead about that at all. But I will be playing college basketball again.”
Since arriving at UConn, Bueckers has played just one full season of college basketball – her freshman season in 2020-21, during which she averaged 20 points, 4.9 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 2.3 steals per game. She earned the Wooden Award that year, among other accolades.
Since then, though, she’s struggled with injuries. She missed 19 games last season with a tibial plateau fracture and lateral meniscus tear in her left knee. She returned in time for the NCAA tournament and helped the No. 2 seed Huskies to their first national title game appearance since 2016.
Noting that she felt “really good” and was eager to start the season, Bueckers was playing in a pickup game on Aug. 1 when she tore the ACL in her left knee. The guard said that while it is the same knee, the two incidents are “unrelated.”
“I was going full speed and I sort of tried to come to a stop and there was some contact, not a lot of contact, but it just kind of gave out,” Bueckers said. “I knew it was bad. I felt a pop. And then I went to the training room and I was extremely frustrated. I didn’t know how serious it was, but I knew something was wrong.”
Her recovery has been going well, and she has been walking more. Soon, she’ll begin work in the pool after being cleared for chair workouts and biking.
While the comeback has been quick, she noted Thursday that she has no plans to play this season. She said that she wants to be “110% healthy” before playing basketball again because she never wants to take a long break again “ever in my career.”
“Last year, I got hurt, but there was always the reassurance that I could return and I could be back in the same season,” Bueckers said. “This just really makes me never want to take things for granted again, live in the moment, don’t think too far in the future because you never know what could happen. So just living every day to the best of my ability, being thankful to God that I wake up every morning.”
But while she’ll be sidelined this season, that won’t stop Bueckers from helping out the team.