Paige Bueckers Has Next
The Connecticut women's college basketball program is one of the most prestigious in all of sports. Eleven NCAA championships. Record-setting winning streaks. Hall of Famers galore.
Now, Paige Bueckers is ready to step into that spotlight.
The No. 1 recruit in the class of 2020, Bueckers will make her college debut when UConn hosts UMass-Lowell in its 2020-21 season opener Saturday at 1 p.m. ET.
The game can be streamed outside regional networks right here on FOXSports.com and the FOX Sports App.
The 5-foot-11 Bueckers is set to follow in the footsteps of the many greats who have passed through the UConn program, including Diana Taurasi, Breanna Stewart, Maya Moore, Rebecca Lobo, Sue Bird and more.
In fact, Bueckers already has been named to the watch list for the 2021 Nancy Lieberman Award, presented each season to the top point guard at the Division I level.
So who is Bueckers?
In a feature for Bleacher Report, her former teammates described the point guard as incredibly skilled, yet fairly unassuming – although if you talk trash to her, she'll talk right back.
One shares a story of an opponent who made that fateful mistake, only for Bueckers to tell her exactly what was coming next: a 3-pointer right in her foe's face.
Truly, Bueckers' game jumps off the screen, as her ball-handling, shooting and ability both to assist teammates and create openings for them dazzle in equal measure.
The freshman sensation already has caught the attention of fans, as she boasts nearly 600,000 followers on Instagram, more than 32,000 on Twitter and another 1,300 on her Huskies Facebook fan page before even setting foot on the court.
She also has a seemingly fun relationship with legendary Huskies coach Geno Auriemma, who once went on Bueckers' Instagram Live (and joked he did it in order to attract more followers of his own).
Indeed, Bueckers's fame gives her coach constant fodder for his brand of playful needling (via the Hartford Courant):
"'She’s a Kardashian," Auriemma said. ... "Paige, she is my idol. Paige is famous for being famous."
Later, in comments heavy with saracasm, Auriemma poked fun at the freshman's high profile.
"'I can’t even tell you the other names I call her because I just get such a kick out of it," the Huskies coach said. "It’s just great to be in the presence of greatness and be in the aura of her celebrity-ness. We’ve been such a downtrodden program for all these years. We needed that savior to come in here and save us, and she’s the anointed one. I’m waiting for the three Magi to come bring me some gifts for having her.'"
Bueckers last played March 12, when her Hopkins High defeated Stillwater 66-40 in the Class 4A Minnesota state tournament, ending her high school career on a 62-game winning streak and earning Gatorade National Player of the Year as well as Female Athlete of the Year honors.
The No. 3 Huskies, coming off a 29-3 season and AAC championship and boasting seven new players this season, are ready to start competition after their first four games had been canceled or postponed due to COVID-19.
This will be UConn's first season back in the Big East after seven seasons in the AAC; the Huskies own 19 Big East regular-season titles and 18 conference tournament titles, the most recent coming in 2012.
And, in somewhat serendipitous fashion, the last time the Huskies had seven new players on a roster was 31 years ago, when the program won its first Big East championship.
On Saturday, Bueckers' quest to help add to that incredible history begins.