Tuesday, Oct. 4 was the first day of UConn women’s basketball practice and it was also the first day of Paige Buckers’ official return to the team.
Bueckers was forced to miss the entire 2022-23 season after tearing her ACL in late July of 2022. After a year of recovery and rehab, she is fully good to go.
“I think that she’s just ready for the season, ready to play for a team, play for our coaches and ready to play for UConn Nation,” said Aaliyah Edwards.
Some questions have come up about Bueckers getting back to her 2020-21 National Player of the Year-self. She struggled with knee injuries in the 2021-22 season and only saw the playoffs. For the 2022-23 season, she was fully on the bench. Bueckers mentioned that she is taking things slow and it will take some time for her to get the initial rust off, but she is fully confident in her abilities to be herself and beyond on the court this season.
“I think that’s just who Paige Bueckers is,” said Azzi Fudd. “She is one of those ‘one of a kind’ players where you don’t see what she has in other players, it’s just special. I have no doubts in my mind that she is going to be amazing this season.”
After Bueckers came to UConn, she was very vocal about bringing one of her best friends to UConn as well to play on the same court, Fudd. It has not exactly been the picture perfect experience here in Storrs with Fudd and Bueckers, as they have both faced injury woes. However, this could be the season that they spend the most time on the court together, but they aren’t getting too excited as they know what is at stake with both of their healths.
“You can’t really help the excitement in which being healthy around this time means. And sort of just the happy moments in practice of just finally being able to be on the court again together, not just with her but with everybody,” said Bueckers on Fudd.
There have been more questions surrounding if Bueckers is going to return to the Huskies for a fifth season, as she has one more year of eligibility. Bueckers has always stressed that she loves the college experience and wants to win with UConn.
“I don’t know,” Bueckers said. “I guess we’ll see. Like I said, from what I’ve learned the past couple years, never take the future for granted. Stay in the moment. Stay in the present. I don’t know what I’m calling this year. But I would say I’m a senior. I’ve taken three years of classes and it will be my fourth year of classes. So, senior year of classes.”
There is so much excitement surrounding Bueckers’ return. She is a beloved player in the sport of women’s basketball and has been a force to change the game for the better. The women’s basketball team themselves have been patiently awaiting the day that they get to see Bueckers back in the playbook. She will bring immense amounts of skill and leadership that the Huskies missed out on last season. On the other hand, UConn Nation is more than ready to see Bueckers back on the court at Gampel Pavilion. Bueckers said herself that she will be interacting with the fans more than ever this season, whether head coach Geno Auriemma or associate head coach Chris Dailey approves.
The first opportunity that student fans will be able to see Bueckers back with the team is next Friday, Oct. 13. First Night will go down at Gampel Pavilion at 7:00 p.m. in Storrs.