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UConn’s Paige Bueckers sees ‘finish line’ for ACL recovery

Paige Bueckers missed the entire 2022-23 season for UConn. (G Fiume/Getty Images)

“Coach Paige” became a staple of college basketball this season as UConn’s Paige Bueckers helped guide her teammates from the sidelines. Over the weekend, Coach Paige was back to work, mentoring the country’s top high school players as part of the Overtime Takeover event.

Bueckers is a natural leader, and the rising senior is passionate about shepherding future college players.

“I was in their shoes just a couple of years ago, looking up to other college athletes, WNBA athletes” she told Just Women’s Sports. “So for them to have an outlet, and a person like me, who I feel like has experienced a lot, and seen a lot, willing to give them advice and help them out in any way, is important.”

Not all of Bueckers’ experiences have been good. The 2022-23 season in particular was riddled with challenges, as Bueckers missed the whole season recovering from an ACL injury sustained before the first game was played.

Friday marked nine months since the injury occurred, and Paige the coach, and Paige the player, are on track to become one in the same again, soon.

“I’m continuing my road to recovery,” Bueckers said. “I’m starting to see the finish line, and the light at the end of the tunnel. There has been a lot of hard work over the past nine months, and honestly I am just continuing that this summer. I’m hoping to get back on the floor soon.”

The UConn guard also missed a chunk of the 2021-22 season with an anterior tibial plateau fracture and a lateral meniscus tear on her left leg. She underwent surgery and returned to the floor in time to lead UConn to the Final Four.

When she’s on the floor, Bueckers is averaging 18 points, 5.1 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 2 steals per game. A dominant freshman campaign led to Bueckers being awarded Player of the Year honors.

Bueckers has an entire network of former UConn players behind her as the guard continues her recovery. It’s been that way since she first decided to play for the Huskies, Bueckers says, but now, it’s more important than ever.

Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart have offered words of wisdom and encouragement to Bueckers throughout the process. Both have battled major injuries during their careers, with Stewart tearing her achilles in 2019, and Bird injuring her ACL during her freshman season at UConn.

Any time she deals with adversity, Bueckers remembers something Stewart said to her: “It’s a small thing to a giant.”

“There are going to be little things that knock you down,” Bueckers said. “Nobody’s career has ever been perfect. It’s more about how you handle adversity that says a lot about you, and the way you bounce back and attack anything that tries to knock you down.”

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.