Paige Bueckers’ March Madness Diary: Gearing up for the tournament

Editor’s note: UConn Huskies star Paige Bueckers is checking in periodically during the NCAA Tournament for The Associated Press. She is recovering from an ACL injury.

I’ve always been a fan of March Madness.

Growing up I remember watching UConn own it. Sure, I remember Stewie (Breanna Stewart) winning four in a row, but my first memory was when Stefanie Dolson helped the Huskies win. She was my favorite UConn player growing up.

Fast-forward to the last few years when I’ve actually got to experience playing in it myself. It may not have been the norm with my first year being in the San Antonio bubble because of COVID and last season I was coming back from injury, but it’s an amazing feeling to play on the game’s biggest stage.

You work so hard as a competitor to play in this and win at the end of the season.

As many of you know this year I’m out recovering from a torn ACL injury that I suffered over the summer. I’ve been working hard over the last six-to-seven months on rehabbing. There’s still a way to go, but every day I’m getting strong and healthier. I’ve been able to do more basketball drills during practice, but still am a bit way from contact.

I’ve trusted my faith and know that God does everything for a reason and that’s helped me through this. Even though I can’t play I’ve found other ways to help the team. You don’t see certain things when you’re playing and I’ve broken things down on the bench giving tips here and there. I’d rather be “Player P” than “Coach P” but now I do what I can to help us win.

I learned last year never take anything for granted when I went down with an injury and was fortunate enough to come back and play in my hometown of Minneapolis for the Final Four.

The season is long and grueling and some people get tired, and I remind them that they are blessed to play basketball and play here at UConn.

I also know that I can still be a positive role model for kids while I’m not playing. I remember when I was young trying to get Maya Moore or Lindsay Whalen’s signature and how special that made me feel. Whenever I’m at games, I take a few minutes and take selfies with people and sign autographs.

I can also be a role model in other ways. My injury is unfortunately too common in women’s basketball and there are many others who have gone through it. It’s a long process and I hope my recovery can help inspire others to keep their faith and continue to work hard to get back healthy.

Obviously, we have one goal in mind and that’s winning a championship, but associate head coach Chris Dailey does a great job of helping us have fun, too.

The other night we had dinner at Coach’s (Geno Auriemma’s) restaurant and played a mystery game with a pajama party theme where we had to figure out who the “Riddler” was. Everyone on the team was assigned a role and coach was on the side not playing, but stirring the pot trying to distract everyone.

There’s no doubt that Amari (DeBerry) and Aaliyah (Edwards) were the most committed to their roles and costumes.

Of course Azzi (Fudd) was the culprit we had to guess. It was a fun night.

CD puts these things together to help us get out of our apartments where we spend most of the day watching basketball. Of course, that’s half the fun of March Madness — watching all the games. We’re especially excited to watch our men’s team play.

Until next time, go Huskies!

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