Basketball is very much a sport where the top high school recruits in the United States live up to their potential. Paige Bueckers is no different. The top high school recruit for women in 2020 has gone on to The University of Connecticut and delivered in a big way. The nineteen-year-old phenom from Hopkins High School in Minnetonka, Minnesota has become only the second Women’s college basketball player to win both the Big East conference’s Freshman of the Year as well as Player of the Year. The other being Maya Moore who was also the number one high school recruit back in 2007 and later went on to play for Geno Auriemma and the Huskies just like Bueckers is right now.
Bueckers averaged 19.8 ppg, 6.2 apg, and 2.4 steals per game and has led her team to a 21-1 record all-the-while earning the top seed in the nation as well as in the Big East tournament which began this past weekend.
Much deservedly so, her name is being mentioned in the National Player of the Year discussion. Yet no freshman has ever won the award. Whether it be the Naismith award, Wooden award, AP Player of the Year or the Wade Trophy (best women’s basketball player), they have never been given to a first-year student athlete. With that being said, Bueckers is the best player on the best team in Women’s college basketball so it is only fair to include her in the conversation.
Consistency favors Bueckers as much as her on-court production does. Stats are a determining factor when it comes to voting for such awards as the National player of the year. But what cannot be ignored is her ability to perform in big moments. For starters, she was held to under 10 points just one time this season. The freshman has many tricks in her bag that she put on full display in the 2020-2021 season. Most notably a three-point dagger with 10.8 seconds left to give UCONN a 63-59 lead over the then top ranked South Carolina Gamecocks. The three proved to be the difference as that was the final score on February 8 between the #1 Gamecocks and #2 Huskies.
After a lackluster end to the 2019-2020 season where there was no March Madness for neither the women nor the men, college basketball fans should be excited to have the end of season tournament making its return. Last season saw a historical year from former Oregon Ducks star Sabrina Ionescu but with no March Madness in 2020 she was unable to showcase her talents on the national stage. Bueckers will have the opportunity that Ionescu did not and college basketball fans, as well as WNBA executives should pay attention to the talent of the UCONN freshman.