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UConn star Paige Bueckers ‘getting closer’ to return from knee injury

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

Paige Bueckers has missed entire season for UConn basketball. And while she also will miss the NCAA Tournament for the No. 2 seed Huskies, she expects to come back next season “better than I was before.”

The junior guard tore the ACL in her left knee during a pick-up game with teammates on Aug. 1, then underwent surgery four days later. She still has at least two months to go until she is cleared to play full-contact basketball, CT Insider reported Friday.

But as UConn prepares for its first-round game against No. 15 seed Vermont at 3 p.m. ET Saturday, Bueckers finds herself in a good place in her recovery.

“Where I’m at now, I’ve been able to do a lot more basketball, and that’s lit a new spark under me, to see myself getting closer and cutting and shooting and going through drills at practice,” she said. “I’ve had many milestones along the way that have lit a new fire under me.”

While the 21-year-old joked about becoming “Coach P” during the preseason, the label turned sour for the star, who realized she would “much rather be ‘Player P,'” she told CT Insider. Even as the Huskies went through rough stretches, she wished she could be out there with them.

“Even if I were to have the worst game in my career this season — like, if I shot 0-for-20 — I would just feel so blessed and so fortunate to even shoot 0-for-20, to even get that opportunity, to just play the game,” she said.

UConn righted the ship in time for the postseason, and the program is taking aim at a 15th straight Final Four appearance. While missing March Madness is “the worst,” it is also motivating as she continues her recovery, Bueckers said.

“I think once I get my feet under me and once I get back into the flow and get my confidence back and my movements in my knee, just in how I play and how I used to play, I think I’ll be better than I was before,” she said.