UConn’s Paige Bueckers is becoming a household name if she isn’t one already. From her dominant high school career to becoming a player former UConn women’s basketball greats rave about, she is someone you are going to want to follow during the women’s NCAA tournament.
There is no denying Bueckers has game, and in a program full of the world’s most talented collegiate hoopers, she has gracefully found her way into a leadership role. Breaking records, playing a pivotal role in her team’s regular-season success, and now continuing to show her talent in the postseason, if this is the first time you’re hearing about her, there is a lot to catch up on.
This is how Paige Bueckers became a breakout superstar as a freshman for UConn.
She was a high school phenom
Bueckers was taking over headlines in high school. From her first year at Hopkins High School in Minnetonka, Minnesota, she averaged 20.8 points per game, and received all-metro honors as a freshrman. During her sophomore year, she was even more effective, logging 22.3 points and 6.8 assists per game despite sitting out for much of the season with an ankle injury.
Heading into her junior year, Bueckers continued to dominate and received even more attention. She surpassed 2,000 career points, was the Minnesota Gatorade Player of the Year, and was a finalist for Gatorade National Player of the Year.
But in her senior year, she did something that no other female high school athlete had done before. She graced the cover of SLAM magazine. Bueckers is just one of a small cohort of women, including Maya Moore, Candace Parker, and others, to have been featured on the magazine’s cover since its first publication in 1994.
Bueckers was the No. 1 recruit in the country and was also selected to be part of both the Jordan Brand Classic and the McDonald’s All-American game. To add, she was Gatorade Player of the Year, received her third Star Tribune Player of the Year award, was MaxPreps National Player of the Year, Morgan Wootten National Player of the Year, Naismith Player of the year, and was Minnesota Miss Basketball. Wow, that’s a lot of accolades.
A record-breaking freshman season
After such a dominating high school career, Bueckers moved on to UConn, where she hoped to make her mark, and truly, she has. Paige is the first player ever to win Big East Freshman of the Year and Player of the Year in the same season. She was also named an AP All-American, and it’s been her full body of work, showing her stardom day-after-day, that has gotten her this level of notoriety.
Bueckers is a force on the court, hitting shots from practically everywhere, slashing through the lane with authority, and stepping up in big moments when it matters most. During the regular season, she averaged 36 minutes, 19.8 points, and 6.2 assists per game, and throughout the year, she knocked down shots that would leave you wondering if she’s actually a freshman.
Even UConn greats are in awe of her in just her first year. Breanna Stewart said,
“What she’s done this year, in such a year of unknown, is actually ridiculous. She doesn’t look like a freshman, that’s for sure.”
Paige continues to dominate in the NCAA tournament
In the first round of the NCAA tournament, UConn took on High Point and Bueckers shined. She scored 24 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists. Offensively, she showed us once again just how dominant she can be, but her stellar performance did not stop there. On the defensive end of the floor, registering four steals and two blocks as well.
In the second round, UConn faced Syracuse and scoring 20 points, nine of which came from the free-throw line where she went 9-for-9. Bueckers also had five rebounds, four assists and two steals.
Paige to the WNBA
While Bueckers is certainly talented enough to make a splash in the WNBA today, she will not become eligible until she graduates with her undergraduate degree or completes her four years of eligibility, whichever comes first. Until then, you can expect her to continue to have a stellar career as a UConn Husky.
With that said, Bueckers is the freshman phenom who has more than lived up to the hype. From high school to college, she has stayed consistent, and she is someone you will want to keep an eye on during this tournament, throughout her college career, and beyond.