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    Monday, December 11, 2023

    UConn’s Paige Bueckers says she's 'all cleared' from injury

    In this April 2, 2022, file photo, UConn's Paige Bueckers dribbles during a practice session at the Women's Final Four in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

    UConn women's basketball star Paige Bueckers shared images and videos on Instagram from her recovery journey with the caption, "All cleared and ready for takeoff ... 369 days... GOD DID!"

    It's unclear whether the senior will participate in UConn's four exhibition games during its 10-day Europe trip next week. UConn coach Geno Auriemma and members of the team are scheduled to speak with the media on Friday ahead of the program's departure for Europe next Monday.

    Bueckers tore her left ACL on Aug. 1, 2022, during a pickup game on campus. She had surgery four days later and missed all of last season recovering and rehabbing her knee.

    In June, Bueckers told media she was participating in workouts and was still waiting to be cleared for live 5-on-5 drills.

    "I'm feeling really good," Bueckers said in mid-June. "... 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. I mean, ACL recoveries take a long time. But in terms of like playing and getting cleared, I'm very close."

    The Hopkins, Minnesota native also missed 19 games during her sophomore year (2021-22) due to a separate left knee injury (a tibial plateau fracture).

    Bueckers last played for the Huskies during the 2022 National Championship. She scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds and two assists in 39 minutes.

    Auriemma told reporters at his charity golf tournament in June that he was impressed by how his star pupil was attacking her ACL recovery — both physically and mentally.

    "This is the best she's ever been. The strongest she's ever been. The fittest she's ever been. This is the most time she has spent working on her body, her mind, you know, just taking care of herself," he said. "... I think she's way ahead and maybe that's what the year off did. It showed her if you want a long career, this is how you're going to have to go about it from here on out. Injuries or no injuries, it doesn't matter.

    "This is what you're going to have to do. And she's embraced it. And I've never seen her better either as playing one-on-one, two-on-two or three-on-three. What she's doing in the weight room, just her whole walk, the way she walks around, the way everybody looks up to her and the way everybody hangs on every word she says."

    Bueckers' return will be huge for the Huskies. Not only will she slip back into the starting point guard slot, but she'll help spread out the offense with her outside shot and with her skilled court vision. Bueckers is second on UConn all-time list with 14 assists in a single game and owns the program's freshman season record for assists at 168.

    But more than that, her return will be the biggest moral boost for the team that has been plagued by injuries over the last two seasons.

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