Women’s sports are on the rise and we are all witnesses of it. Here in Storrs, Connecticut there is a different level of respect and representation for women’s sports as it is the home of UConn women’s basketball, one of the most historic programs in all of basketball. With 11 championships, a legendary head coach in Geno Auriemma and bringing in the best players from all around the world who often go on to have long and successful WNBA careers, UConn is the place to be when it comes to women’s basketball.
Last week at Big East Media Day for women’s basketball, there was a lot of talk of women’s sports and how relevant it has become in recent years. Auriemma explained how the exposure of playing in large, well-known arenas like Madison Square Garden is amazing for the sport of women’s basketball, and he expressed how he wants to play there more in the upcoming seasons. He discussed how it is a major plus to have St. John’s be so local to “The world’s most famous arena.” Auriemma also mentioned that UConn may play two games at The Garden next season, “if it all works out,” though the opponents are unknown.
UConn has been filled with some of the greatest players in women’s basketball who have gone on to have long, successful and historic careers in the WNBA: Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore, Rebecca Lobo, Swin Cash and many more. However, during the time that all these legends wore UConn jerseys, women’s basketball had nowhere near as much as respect as any of the men’s basketball teams. The attendance of the 2002 NCAA National Championship game where UConn won their third championship was 29,619, which set the record for most fans at an official women’s basketball game in history. Just a few weeks ago, an exhibition game between Iowa and UConn’s Big East foe DePaul held at Kinnick Stadium (home to Iowa football) had an attendance of 55,646 fans. In just that one statistic, you can see how immensely the game of women’s basketball has grown in the last 20 years. Iowa has star player Caitlin Clark, LSU has star players Angel Reese and Hailey Van Lith and Stanford has star player Cameron Brink, but UConn also has stars of their own with Azzi Fudd and Aaliyah Edwards. Additionally, UConn has Paige Bueckers.
Through her injury battles in recent seasons, Bueckers has taken her Name, Image and Likeness to the top and used the time she spent away from basketball developing her brand.
“I’m just extremely grateful for the opportunities that we do have,” said Bueckers. “Now I’m just being able to capitalize off of name, image and likeness and just being grateful for all the partnerships and people and relationships that I’ve made. And just how much knowledge I’ve gained through people in my circles, whether it be my agency or people that I’m working with and partnering with and learning how to build a new wealth for the future. Sort of being able to build that now is extremely important and I think we’re blessed. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunities that I do have now and that we all have received with NIL passing.”
NIL has generated millions of dollars for NCAA athletes in many different programs all over the country, especially women athletes. You mainly see the athletes in winning programs getting the bulk of the partnerships and sponsorships, but NIL is spread completely across the board, which is an incredible opportunity that only builds up sports. It is especially great for women’s sports as the scene in itself is on the rise, and so are the athletes; they are becoming the faces of the game which is absolutely huge in every way.
“Just to be a part of the rise of women’s basketball, women’s sports, I think is amazing because women’s sports have always been great,” said Bueckers. “We’re just now getting the attention and the media coverage that we deserve. So you see it, college basketball, you see the WNBA, you see it in tennis with Coco Guaff. So you see it in a lot of different areas, I think the rise and the more respect and attention has been greater.”
“I think women’s basketball and sports in general is on the rise and we’re seeing a whole lot of different people capitalize off of it,” said Bueckers. “And different people playing women’s college basketball, but not even just basketball but other sports as well.”
Bueckers expressed the importance of capitalizing off playing a sport and starting off at a young age is even more beneficial. She looks to be a role model for young girls, especially with the injury woes she has been through; Bueckers wants to be the example to girls to know that they can come back from anything and be even better.
“It means everything. Just to see how many kids look up to me because I was just a little kid, looking up to people and wanting to fill their shoes,” Bueckers said. “So for me to be a positive role model and try to create as much like ‘I can be her one day’ as I can. I think the future for me lately has been showing people that you can come back from an ACL surgery, you can come back from an injury and you can be just as good if not better than you were before. So I think using that is sort of a motivation to come back even better to show little girls and other people going through injuries that they can do the same thing and come back even better.”
Being surrounded by women’s college basketball for almost 40 years now, Auriemma knows what it takes to be great and is a huge voice for getting women’s sports more respect.
“There should be way more coverage of women’s basketball – with the advent of social media, everything is magnified and certainly now is the perfect time for women’s basketball to capitalize on that.”
Women’s college basketball is on the up, especially after last year’s record-breaking NCAA March Madness Tournament with Iowa and LSU at the front. There is so much excitement for this upcoming season and it all starts this weekend. One of the biggest faces in college basketball, Bueckers, will be back on the court in her UConn jersey, which will benefit the game more than people expect. After not playing a full season since her National Player of the Year rookie campaign, Bueckers is fully back for the Huskies and she’s going to take women’s basketball by storm.