No qualifier. No gendered sub-category. Paige Bueckers is the biggest star in college basketball, full stop. As in, stop what you’re doing and watch her.
Bueckers, the UConn phenom, entered the 2020-21 season with runaway hype — the top-rated recruit in the country, a Slam magazine cover girl as a high schooler — and somehow exceeded it. The 5-foot-11 point guard delivered a string of captivating performances that lifted the Huskies to the No. 1 ranking and a No. 1 seed in the 2021 NCAA women’s basketball tournament, shattering the norms of what a freshman can accomplish with each highlight-reel assist and dagger bucket.
Already an AP first-team All-American, Bueckers could be the first freshman in history to be awarded national player of the year.
Now the 19-year-old Bueckers has UConn, which opens its March Madness against No. 16 High Point on Sunday night, in position to capture a record-extending 12th NCAA title and its first since 2016.
Here are nine things to know about Paige Bueckers:
1. Bueckers hails from Hopkins, Minnesota, a suburb of the Twin Cities. She led Hopkins High School to four consecutive state title games, finally winning the championship as a junior. Hopkins had won 62 straight games when the state tournament was canceled her senior year.
2. It’s pronounced BECK-ers.
3. Bueckers is averaging 19.7 points and 6.1 assists per game, shooting 53.9 percent on field goals, 47.4 percent on 3-pointers and 83.6 percent on free throws.
4. Highlights? Roll the tape…
The game-sealing 3 on the road versus Tennessee … on a bad ankle:
The overtime heroics to take down No. 1 South Carolina:
The UConn single-game assists record:
5. Though Bueckers is arguably the best player in the country, she’s also arguably not even the best freshman in the country. Iowa’s Caitlin Clark — a USA Basketball teammate of Bueckers’ — leads the nation in scoring (26.7) and ranks second in assists (7.2) this season as a freshman.
6. Bueckers has 672,000 Instagram followers (just for comparison, Gonzaga superstar Jalen Suggs — her close friend from growing up in Minnesota — has 301K followers. Projected No. 1 NBA draft pick Cade Cunningham has 211K. Knicks starting point guard Elfrid Payton? 122K).
7. She’s big on TikTok, too.
8. Bueckers might also be the best recruiter in women’s college basketball. She helped convince sharpshooting guard and good friend Azzi Fudd, the No. 1 player in the Class of 2021, to commit to UConn. Think they’re good this year? They’ll be better next year.
9. Bueckers would be eligible to turn pro and declare for the 2023 WNBA draft following her junior season. Under current rules, players are eligible if they turn 22 during the year of the draft; Bueckers was born in October 2001.
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