Ice Brady and Paige Bueckers both missed all of the 2022-23 season with knee injuries. But the UConn basketball stars used that time to create a bond that should help the team once they retake the court.
After dislocating her patella in the preseason, Brady spent her freshman year on the bench. But she had good company in 2021 national player of the year Bueckers, who tore her ACL ahead of the season. The seasoned veteran helped her younger teammate navigate the loneliness that came with their injuries.
For Brady, one of the toughest parts of the injury came when her teammates would make their way to the court for practice, while she remained in the treatment room to rehab her injury.
“That was very tough,” she told CT Insider. “And personally, me, I feel like I enjoy being around the team and, you know, just having people around. I didn’t like being alone.”
Bueckers provided much-needed connection for Brady, and the benefit went both ways.
“As unfortunate as it was, to be able to have each other to lean on through the toughest times of our life was extremely important,” Bueckers said.
The pair would motivate one another in the training room and through workouts, often waking up early to get in a lift before joining the team for practice. And Bueckers, who also missed time with an injury in the previous season, helped show Brady that the injury didn’t define her.
“She definitely like took me under her wing and mentored me,” Brady said.
As UConn prepares for the 2023-24 season, both players are getting back to full strength. Both Bueckers and Brady are waiting to be cleared for five-on-five drills but otherwise are back at practice with the Huskies.
Without Bueckers and Brady, and without sophomore Azzi Fudd for much of the season, UConn entered the 2023 NCAA tournament with a No. 2 seed, then bowed out in the Sweet 16. The loss snapped a streak of 14 consecutive Final Four appearances by the Huskies.
Yet even with the return of star players from injury, UConn is not looking for redemption, head coach Geno Auriemma told reporters Tuesday.
“Everybody’s got ‘redeem team’ and everybody’s got ‘reload team’ and everybody’s got ‘unfinished business team’… How about we just shut the f— up and win games?” he said. “How about we just do that?”