Paige Bueckers is the top women’s high school basketball player in America who is dominating viral highlight reels with handles that are on another level and a pro-ready jumper. Bueckers stands just 5’11, yet she’s controlled any court she’s played on so far — and she always lets the defense know about it. She calls Diana Taurasi the GOAT, after all.
Bueckers gave Slam the most accurate depiction of her game to date: “I don’t know if there’s another word for swaggy, but I guess that’s what people say. I have a certain way I carry myself. I’m not too cocky, but if someone talks trash to me I’m gonna talk trash.”
Watch for yourself:
Check the opening seconds of one of the few highlight tapes she’s put on her own Instagram, where she dribbles down the court, looks at her defender, and says “she can’t guard me.”
Yeah, Paige Bueckers is a whole damn show.
The 18-year-old has risen to social media stardom over the last two years, gaining more than 200,000 Instagram followers. It’s easy to see how — Bueckers’ game full of energy and confrontation. She can whip the ball from right to left, then crossover into a hesitation and throw a no-look dish to a cutter as her defender tries to stay upright. She has a Kyrie Irving-like dribble package and Taurasi-esque shot mechanics.
Her game is basketball mixtape heaven.
What’s she accomplished?
Bueckers is a high school senior from Minnesota who committed to the University of Connecticut in April. She’s a five-star guard who was ranked No. 1 in the nation by ESPN for the class of 2020. Per Team USA, she played varsity basketball as an eighth-grader, and has a 149-8 high school record. She led her Hopkins High School team to win the state championship in her junior year, averaging 24 points per game with five assists, five rebounds, five steals and nearly a block per game, according to Max Preps. In six games this year, as of Dec. 10, she’s averaging 24 points, eight assists, three rebounds and four steals.
Bueckers also has three gold medals to her name already (FIBA Americas U16, FIBA World Cup U17 and U19), and was selected to participate in October’s World Beach Games in a three-on-three tournament, representing Team USA with WNBA Rookie of the Year Napheesa Collier, No. 1 WNBA Draft pick Jackie Young, and Oregon’s Ruthy Hebard. Yep, she was the only high school player among pros and a soon-to-be-pro.
She’s UConn’s next big thing.
“I’m going to be saying, ‘You know what? We wouldn’t have won the national championship without her,’” UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said, per the Journal Inquirer. “That’s what I’m going to say. By herself she can’t win anything. But with the people I think we’re going to surround her with, I think we can do great things.”
So what’s her game actually like?
To better understand how Bueckers will play at UConn, and maybe beyond, I watched a few games from her U19 FIBA World Cup run over the summer. There she played on- and off-the-ball next to another top prospect, Louisville signee Hailey Van Lith, and was named tournament MVP. She averaged 12 points, a tournament-leading five assists and four rebounds.
Bueckers is a pure point guard who’s at her best when she has the ball in her hands. Her numbers would’ve been higher without playing next to traditional point guard in Van Lith (who is also an elite prospect.) Passing is by far Bueckers’ standout quality, and it isn’t merely the no-look flashy plays. Bueckers is an elite pick-and-roll and fastbreak passer whose pinpoint accuracy is going to make her a star.
She’s elite at throwing cross-court dimes over the top of the defense:
She’s great at finding open shooters on a drive-and-kick:
Skilled dropping passes in the lane:
Smart throwing lead passes off the break:
And an alien when launching unbelievable full-court looks:
Bueckers is maybe the best amateur passer in the world. She isn’t tall, and she’s not the strongest, but her arms are long, and that natural gift paired with her off-the-charts IQ is what makes her special. That’s going to translate at the next level. In the U19 Team USA run for gold, she logged 38 assists to 16 turnovers in seven games.
Bueckers is a really good scorer, too
Bueckers didn’t have full autonomy over the offense, so she wasn’t able to shoot as much as she might for Auriemma, but she did sink an impressive 6-of-17 from three-point range in seven games. Most of her time was instead spent draining runners down the lane and layups off the dribble. She’s got incredible finesse, and she’s really creative, accelerating and decelerating when necessary.
The most impressive move I saw from her didn’t even go in. She was fouled in the act of faking a step-back and instead stepping through from her gather. This is a next-level move for a high school player:
This is a pro’s move.
And yes, her jump shot is pure, too:
Is Bueckers the total package?
Defensively, Bueckers isn’t elite, and she even admits that. “I’m pretty good at defense ...” she said. “Sometimes.” That’s typical for any high school phenom, especially one who’s already signed to go to Connecticut. Bueckers is sometimes caught staring in space defensively, and she’s been out-muscled one-on-one.
But she’s really quick. She can become a great defender, and she already has the instincts of where to be to steal the ball.
But on offense, she’s on another planet from her competition. She could become one of the best point guards in the country quickly if Auriemma gives her the reigns.
Bueckers will be appointment TV soon enough. She’s more than just an Instagram highlight reel.