How Paige Bueckers' surgery and new timetable for return impact UConn (2024)

  • Mechelle Voepel

Dec 14, 2021, 05:50 PM ET

With the news that UConn sophom*ore guard Paige Bueckers had knee surgery Monday and is expected to have an eight-week recovery, her soonest possible return now projects as the second week of February.

Bueckers had an anterior tibial plateau fracture and lateral meniscus tear repaired in her left knee, so this has to be considered an optimistic projection. But if this timetable proves accurate, what will she miss, and what will the No. 7 Huskies do in her absence?

Bueckers already was expected to miss two big nonconference games vs. No. 6 Louisville on Sunday and at Oregon on Jan. 17. Now she also will likely miss the rest of the nonconference slate, at No. 1 South Carolina on Jan. 27 and the Feb. 6 matchup with Tennessee, which comes right at the end of Bueckers' current estimated recovery.

UConn went 1-1 in its first two games without Bueckers, who was injured Dec. 5 in a victory over Notre Dame. UConn lost 57-44 to Georgia Tech on Dec. 9, snapping a 239-game winning streak against unranked opponents and prompting what felt like a postgame wake from coach Geno Auriemma, who said he didn't foresee the Huskies being able to fix issues they were having.

Two days later, things seemed more upbeat after the Huskies' second-half comeback in a 71-61 victory over UCLA. But the upcoming matchup with Louisville is expected to be more like Georgia Tech because of the Cardinals' strong defense. The Huskies shot just 31 percent from the field against the Yellow Jackets.

That number went up to 41 percent against UCLA, with the Huskies' three healthy guards -- Christyn Williams, Evina Westbrook and Caroline Ducharme -- a combined 14-of-41 (34.1%) from the field.

The pressure is on those players with not just Bueckers but also guards Nika Mühl and Azzi Fudd out with injuries. Muhl, sidelined since Dec. 8, is expected to miss several weeks with a foot injury, and Fudd, out since Dec. 1, is expected to have the stress reaction in her foot reevaluated shortly. Limiting turnovers and hitting outside shots are two strengths we've long ago come to expect that UConn always has, but those things now can't be taken for granted.

One of the biggest positives out of the UCLA victory was the performance of forward Dorka Juhász, the transfer from Ohio State who had her best game yet in a Huskies uniform. Her 16 points (on 5 of 5 shooting) and 16 rebounds were indicative of the ability of the two-time All-Big Ten first teamer.

If she can keep producing, it will make a big difference for UConn, and give support to fellow forwards Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Aaliyah Edwards. The Huskies are also still awaiting the return of injured forward Aubrey Griffin.

Oregon has gone through its own struggles with injuries to key players, but we'll see how healthy the Ducks are by mid-January. The Huskies lost 73-57 to South Carolina on Nov. 22 in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas -- even with Bueckers playing. The Gameco*cks have been without injured guard Destanni Henderson recently, but their depth is so good, they have continued to cruise at the top spot.

Bueckers hit a huge shot late in last year's 67-61 victory at Tennessee, but she would need a bit of an accelerated healing period to be able to face the Lady Vols -- who are tied at the No. 7 spot with UConn in this week's AP poll -- this year. That Feb. 6 matchup will be UConn's last nonconference game, so whatever ground it doesn't make up nationally by then in terms of NCAA tournament seeding might not be made up.

And nobody can just pencil in Big East victories for UConn, either. The Huskies haven't lost to a conference opponent since they were in the old Big East in 2013. Could that streak come to an end during Bueckers' absence?

Currently, DePaul (9-2), Marquette (8-2) and Creighton (6-2) are off to the best starts in the Big East, along with 6-2 UConn. The Huskies will face them all soon: They host Marquette on Dec. 29, travel to DePaul on Dec. 31 and host Creighton on Jan. 9.

If Bueckers does return in eight weeks, she would be back for the rematches with DePaul (Feb. 11) and Marquette (Feb. 13). In all, under that scenario she would return with seven games left on the regular-season schedule.

The Huskies will hope for the best in terms of Bueckers' healing and return coming in time for her to still be a factor this season. But for the next eight weeks, they have to firmly establish who they are without her.

How Paige Bueckers' surgery and new timetable for return impact UConn (2024)


How did Paige Bueckers tear her ACL? ›

However, in August 2022, she suffered a torn ACL while playing a round of pickup basketball at the Werth Champions Center. “I knew it was bad. I felt a pop. I'm not really sure if I heard it, but I felt it for sure,” Bueckers said after the injury, per The UConn Blog.

What grade is Paige Bueckers in college? ›

Bueckers is a redshirt junior with the Huskies. The 22-year-old is listed as one of four juniors on UConn's roster, joined by Caroline Ducharme, Azzi Fudd, and Aubrey Griffin, per UConn's athletic department.

Is Paige Bueckers doing a fifth year? ›

On Senior Night against Georgetown, Bueckers announced that she will return to Storrs for a fifth season, much to the delight of an uproarious home crowd. Bueckers took the mic fourth after Nika Mühl, Aaliyah Edwards and Griffin, who also announced she is foregoing the WNBA Draft to play another year at UConn.

Why wasn't Paige Bueckers drafted? ›

"I just feel like I'm not done yet here," Bueckers said of her decision to return. "I feel like God is still writing my story here. I'm just blessed to be a part of this program, and I never want it to end."

Does Paige Bueckers have a black brother? ›

Bueckers has voiced support for the Black Lives Matter movement, in part because her half-brother, Drew, whom she has described as her best friend, is biracial.

How long was Paige Bueckers ACL recovery? ›

Bueckers initially tore her ACL while playing a pick-up game at UConn on Aug. 1, 2022 and underwent surgery on Aug. 5. In total, the recovery took 369 days — longer than the traditional ACL recovery timeline of 6-9 months.

How is Paige Bueckers able to stay at UConn? ›

That's because she entered college in 2020-21 which was partially affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Because of that, she is granted an additional year on TOP of her redshirt. So if Bueckers is ultimately projected to be the No. 1 pick in the 2025 draft and doesn't want to play for the team that has the No.

Is Paige Bueckers getting paid? ›

Paige Bueckers has not received an official salary in her career yet. She is still a collegiate basketball player in her senior year. She only earns through her basketball skills , her NIL and endorsem*nt deals.

Has Paige Bueckers won a national championship? ›

No, neither Clark nor Bueckers have a national championship to their respective names. Clark came close in 2023 but Iowa fell to LSU in the title game. Bueckers also came close in 2022 but UConn fell to South Carolina in the title game.

Are Jalen Suggs and Paige Bueckers friends? ›

What's more, they're all tight friends. Holmgren and Suggs were teammates at Minnehaha Academy before each starred for one season with the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Jalen Suggs and Paige Bueckers have known each other since fourth grade when Buecker's brother played alongside Suggs in the youth team.

Who is the highest paid WNBA player? ›

Jackie Young

Why is Paige Bueckers coming off the bench? ›

Bueckers spent all last season on the bench recovering from an ACL injury. She came to practices, staying on the sideline doing rehab. After missing nearly 20 games as a sophom*ore in 2021-22 due to a separate knee injury, many questioned the 2021 National Player of the Year's return to the court.

Who tears their ACL the most? ›

ACL injuries occur for many reasons, but there are three main reasons why they're more common in women: Anatomy: Women generally have wider hips compared to men and are often more knocked-kneed, which means their knees tend to tilt inward.

How did he tear his ACL? ›

A partial or complete ACL tear (rupture) often occurs during a sudden twisting movement, in which a person stops quickly and changes direction, especially while pivoting or landing after a jump.

What kind of surgery did Paige Bueckers have? ›

The UConn Huskies' Paige Bueckers, the 2020-21 women's college basketball national player of the year, has been cleared roughly one year after ACL surgery on her left knee, she announced on Instagram on Wednesday.


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