Erin WalshJune 15, 2023

Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

UConn women’s basketball star Paige Bueckers is “very close” to being fully cleared from a torn ACL that sidelined her for the entire 2022-23 season, according to ESPN’s Alexa Philippou.

“I’m feeling really good,” Bueckers told reporters Wednesday. “I’m just past the 10-month mark [following the injury and surgery]. So I’m definitely starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and the finishing mark. But there’s a long way to go. ACL recoveries take a long time.”

Bueckers tore the ACL in her left knee during a pickup basketball game in August 2022.

It is the second significant knee injury the rising star has suffered during her collegiate career after also suffering a lateral meniscus tear and tibial plateau fracture in her left knee during her sophomore season in 2021-22.

The 21-year-old is slowly working her way back to the court this summer as she participates in individual and team workouts. However, she has yet to be cleared for 5-on-5 action and it’s unclear when that final benchmark may be reached.

“I’m in no rush,” Bueckers said. “Our whole team and staff is in no rush. We have a lot of time.”

With Bueckers sidelined during the 2022-23 campaign, the Huskies finished with a 31-6 record and were eliminated from the NCAA tournament in the Sweet Sixteen.

It was the team’s earliest exit from the tournament since a Sweet Sixteen exit in 2004-05. The Huskies had reached the Elite Eight—at the very least—in every season from 2005-06 to 2021-22. That run included six NCAA titles.

Bueckers made a name for herself as a freshman in 2020-21. In 29 games, she averaged 20.0 points, 4.9 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 2.3 steals while shooting 52.4 percent from the floor and 46.4 percent from deep.

She went on to be named the 2020-21 Big East Player of the Year, was the Naismith Award winner and was also named to the All-Big East Team.

Bueckers appeared in just 17 games during the 2021-22 season due to a knee injury, and her numbers dipped across the board as she averaged 14.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.5 steals.

However, she helped guide UConn to the 2022 national title game, where the Huskies fell to Dawn Staley’s South Carolina Gamecocks.

Having Bueckers fully healthy for the 2023-24 season will be a huge boost for Geno Auriemma’s squad. Bueckers will return to a lineup that also includes Azzi Fudd, Aaliyah Edwards and Nika Mühl.

The main goal for the Huskies is to win the 2024 national title, but Bueckers has set an individual goal of returning to the Naismith Award-caliber player she was before being hampered by knee issues.

“I want to be the type of player that I was before, pre-injury, but better,” Bueckers said. “I have those expectations for myself, so that’s where I want to be.”

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