Paige Bueckers injury history: Timeline of UConn guard’s journey from ACL tear to Sweet 16

Paige Bueckers has long been one of college basketball’s biggest stars.

The UConn guard exploded on the scene as a freshman, earning a litany of awards from the Wooden Award, the Naismith Trophy, AP Player of the Year, and USBWA Player and Freshman of the Year, among countless others. She averaged 20.0 points, 5.7 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game as she helped power the Huskies to the Final Four.

But college basketball was missing the standout guard for much of the past two seasons. Between the 2021-22 and 2022-23 campaigns, she played in only 17 combined games.

Bueckers is back healthy for the 2023-24 season, and she’s returned to full form, averaging 21.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 2.2 steals and 1.4 blocks while shooting 54.0 percent from the field and 41.8 percent from 3-point range. And with her return to play, the Huskies are back to the Sweet 16 and looking to keep their magical March run going.

How did Bueckers go from back-to-back injuries to a healthy 2023-24 campaign? Here’s what you need to know.

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Paige Bueckers injury history

Bueckers went into her sophomore season with lofty expectations, and through the first six games of the season, she was off to a blazing start. But during the Huskies’ Dec. 5, 2021, win against Notre Dame, Bueckers sustained a tibial plateau fracture and lateral meniscus tear in the final minute of the game.

The Huskies announced she repaired the fracture and tear on Dec. 13, 2021, which would keep her out for an extended period of time. Bueckers wound up making her return to the court on Feb. 25, 2022, against St. John’s, scoring eight against the Red Storm.

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Over the rest of the season, Bueckers made seven starts in 11 total games, and she averaged 11.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists. She began to get more comfortable as the season progressed, averaging 15.2 points per game during the Huskies’ six-game NCAA Tournament run to the national championship, including scoring 27 against NC State in the Elite Eight.

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Bueckers was preparing to head into the 2022-23 season for her first healthy season since her freshman year. 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. “I knew something was wrong.”

The Huskies announced Bueckers would miss the entire campaign as she would require surgery to repair the torn ligament in her knee. 

“We’re all devastated for Paige. She’s worked really hard to get stronger and healthier this offseason, and this is an unfortunate setback,” coach Geno Auriemma said in a statement. “Paige is obviously an amazing basketball player but she’s a better person and teammate and it’s really unfortunate that this has happened to her. We’ll miss her presence on the court, but she’ll do everything she can to still lead and help her teammates this season. Our program will support Paige through her healing process to help her come back better and stronger.”

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By June 2023, Bueckers was getting closer to making her full return from the injury. She told reporters she could “see the light at the end of the tunnel,” though she noted she was not in a rush, wanting to make sure she was 100 percent ready to return before the season began in November.

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Bueckers described herself as feeling stronger and in better shape than even before her injuries and placed lofty expectations on the 2023-24 season.

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

In June, Auriemma shared he believed Bueckers was the “best,” “strongest” and “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, per USA Today. “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.”

On Aug. 9, 2023, Bueckers posted that after 369 days she was finally fully cleared and “ready for takeoff.”

Bueckers started against Dayton on Nov. 8, 2023, her first game since playing in the national championship loss to South Carolina in 2022. She scored eight points with seven rebounds and four assists in 21 minutes.

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In her next game, Bueckers was fully back to looking like the star many were accustomed to seeing as she dropped 27 points. She hasn’t missed a game for the Huskies as she has started in all 36 games.

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