all scores

UConn star Paige Bueckers ‘very close’ to full return from injury

(David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

UConn star Paige Bueckers is “very close” to a return from the ACL tear that kept her out of the 2022-23 college basketball season, though she has not crossed the finish line yet.

The 2021 player of the year tore the ACL in her left knee last July in a pickup game, an injury that came after she missed 19 games her sophomore year with an anterior tibial plateau fracture and lateral meniscus tear in the same knee.

Her ACL tear represented the first blow in an injury-laden season for UConn, which missed the Elite Eight and the Final Four. But with Bueckers set to return, the Huskies could be back and better than ever next season.

“I’m continuing my road to recovery,” Bueckers told Just Women’s Sports in early May. “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.”

Bueckers is in month 10 of her recovery journey, and she already has been playing three-on-three and two-on-two basketball. All that’s left for her is to be cleared for live action five-on-five basketball.

“I’m feeling really good,” Bueckers said during media availability Wednesday. “I’m definitely starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and the finishing mark. But there’s a long way to go. I mean, ACL recoveries take a long time. But in terms of playing and getting cleared, I’m very close…

“That’s the last little benchmark to be fully cleared. But I’m in no rush, our whole team and staff is in no rush. We have a lot of time, so.”

While Bueckers thinks she “probably could” play as soon as the Huskies’ European tour in Croatia and Slovenia in August, the team is still trying to figure out if playing Bueckers would be worth it or if they should wait for the season to begin in November, Bueckers said.

Whenever she does get back on the court, her teammates will be excited to get back to playing with her.

“Just to play back on the court with her, her presence, what she brings to the team, both on the court, off the court it’s just gonna be amazing to have that energy and have her back,” Aaliyah Edwards said. “Because she’s ‘P Buckets,’ she’s always clutch and that’s what really the team missed and what we need.”