After battling back from a left knee injury and leading UConn to the national championship game this past season, women’s basketball star Paige Bueckers will miss the entire 2022-23 season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee during a pickup game, the school announced Wednesday.
Bueckers, a former national player of the year, missed 19 games of her sophomore season after suffering a non-contact injury in December — an anterior tibial plateau fracture and lateral meniscus tear in her left knee. She returned in February to lead UConn back to the national championship, where the Huskies lost to South Carolina. She also had an ankle surgery in April 2021.
Bueckers posted on Instagram following this latest injury and said she’s looking to God for strength as she hopes to make a similar comeback.
“It’s so so crazy because you work so hard to get back healthy, you feel stronger than ever, and you are playing your best basketball and with one sudden movement it all shifts,” she wrote. “It’s hard trying to make sense of it all now but I can’t help but think that God is using me as a testimony as to how much you can overcome with Him by your side.”
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Bueckers will undergo surgery on Friday, the school announced. Head coach Geno Auriemma said in a statement that he and the team are “devastated” about the injury.
“She’s worked really hard to get stronger and healthier this offseason, and this is an unfortunate setback,” he said. “Paige is obviously an amazing basketball player but she’s a better person and teammate and it’s really unfortunate that this has happened to her. We’ll miss her presence on the court, but she’ll do everything she can to still lead and help her teammates this season. Our program will support Paige through her healing process to help her come back better and stronger.”
Bueckers figured to be in the conversation once again for national player of the year, with UConn likely to be a national championship contender once again.
Bueckers posted the announcement with several photos from her youth and a message vowing to come back even stronger.
“There is going to be good days and there is going to be bad days but my absolute love for the game and Godly strength will get me back to where I need to be,” she wrote. “I’ve worked too hard for the little kid in these pictures to keep going for the dreams I’ve had since I first picked up the ball, so why would I stop now?”
Bueckers burst on the scene during her freshman season, averaging 20.0 points, 5.7 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game. In the process, she set numerous program freshman records and won most major awards she was eligible for as she led the Huskies to the program’s 12th consecutive Final Four.
Her dazzling play continued during her sophomore season, though it was interrupted by the injury. She made up for it with a dominant performance in UConn’s Elite Eight game, when she led all scorers with 27 points. She went into halftime with just four points but hit eight of her next nine shots and sank all six of her free throws.
That night marked the first time she scored more than 20 points since December 5 — the night of her injury. After the game, Bueckers was asked if she thought she’d ever get back to that level of performance again. She pointed to God in her answer.
“You never know what the future holds, I just to try to stay where my feet are, just stay in the present, live in the moment,” she said in the postgame press conference. “But I don’t know. I can’t dream a lot of the stuff that happens to me, which is why I thank God so much because it’s just with huge faith, the things I’ve done in my life. I’m just super happy to be here.”
It’ll be some time before she can prove doubters wrong again, but she was met with plenty of encouragement on social media from teammates and other athletes. Bueckers also said she can feel their prayers.
“The prayers and love means so much to me and the doubts that I won’t get back to where I was might mean even more,” she wrote on Instagram. “God put a dream in my heart and even if I have to walk through a nightmare to get it I’m going to keep believing.”
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