Paige Bueckers is back and ready to prove herself.
On Tuesday, Bueckers was named to an Associated Press preseason All-American, a sign of what people expect out of the UConn basketball star as she returns to the court for the first time in almost a year and a half.
“To still have people believe in me, believe what I can do on the court, it means a lot,” Bueckers said at the Big East media day. “And just coming back from injury, sort of having that confidence, having other people still have confidence in me it means a lot. But at the end of the day, like preseason awards don’t really matter at all. You got to go out there and prove it.”
Having Bueckers back is big for the Huskies, who are looking to compete with a fully healthy roster this season. Bueckers, Azzi Fudd and Ice Brady all are returning from injuries.
“The difference between having Paige and not having Paige is, you know, your chances of competing for a national championship just went up exponentially,” head coach Geno Auriemma said, noting that this is the best he’s seen Bueckers look – even taking into account her National Player of the Year season as a freshman in 2021.
“Paige is a better player now than she was when she was national player of the year,” he said. “She’s bigger. She’s stronger. She’s quicker. She just sees things differently now than she did when she was a kid.”
Bueckers joins an AP All-America list headlined by Iowa star Caitlin Clark, who was once again a unanimous selection, and LSU star Angel Reese. Virginia Tech’s Elizabeth Kitley, Stanford’s Cameron Brink and Indiana’s Mackenzie Holmes rounded out the squad.
Holmes becomes the first preseason All-American in Indiana history, while Clark is now a three-time preseason All-American. All six players have been named end-of-season AP All-Americans in recent years, with Clark, Reese and Holmes making the first team at the end of the 2022-23 season.