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UConn star Paige Bueckers describes emotional toll of ACL injury

Paige Bueckers made her unofficial return in UConn's exhibition game against Southern Connecticut State University on Nov. 4. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

Paige Bueckers missed the entire 2022-23 college basketball season with an ACL injury. And as she prepares for her return to the court for UConn, she also is looking back on her lost year.

The 22-year-old redshirt junior spoke with “SportsCenter” about the emotional toll of the injury.

“The hardest moment definitely would be sitting in that waiting room after my MRI, the doctors telling me I tore my ACL,” she told ESPN’s Alexa Philippou.

Bueckers is good at internalizing her emotions, and she didn’t want to be a burden on her teammates, she said. But when describing those emotions to Philippou, including how she tried both to grapple with them and to be a good teammate at the same time, Bueckers teared up.

“Hiding my emotions was definitely hard,” she said. “It just hurt so bad not being able to go out there, especially with all of the stuff we were going through as a team. But I think the biggest thing for me was coming in every day and making sure that nobody saw the dark times, the sad times I was going through.

“As a team leader I was just trying to do everything I could to have a positive attitude about everything and make sure that every time I came into the gym, every time I came to practice, every time I came to rehab I had a great attitude, I had a smile on my face.”

And even after enduring the hard times, Bueckers wouldn’t change her path.

“I wouldn’t trade my life for the world, I know that everything I went through up to this point has shaped me to be who I am as a person and as a player,” she said. “If I didn’t go through some of the things I went through, I wouldn’t be who I am. The story I want is just the story of overcoming adversity.

“Obviously I wish there could have been no injuries, but it’s just a part of my story and a part of my journey in life. But definitely hoping to make the most of the time I have left here.”

Bueckers made her unofficial return to the court in an exhibition game Saturday against Southern Connecticut State, but she and the Huskies officially will start their season at 7 p.m. ET Wednesday against Dayton.