By John Fanta
FOX Sports College Basketball Writer
Paige Bueckers’ 19-game absence this past season felt like a gut punch for her, UConn and all of college basketball.
On Wednesday afternoon, it was a feeling of absolute heartbreak.
Connecticut announced Bueckers will miss the 2022-2023 season with a torn ACL.
Perhaps the best player, and certainly the person with the biggest brand in women’s college basketball, will be sidelined for what was supposed to be her junior season. It’s stunning to think about, and a nightmare for Bueckers, who spent this past season having to overcome a tibial plateau fracture and lateral meniscus tear that sidelined her for 19 games.
She returned to the lineup for the Huskies in February, leading them to a Big East Tournament crown and all the way to the national title game, only to come up short against South Carolina.
The natural goal for the Huskies heading into 2022-23? Like every year, win a national championship. But that mission had never felt quite like the feeling of unfinished business and an inevitable vibe that it was a matter of when, not if, Bueckers would climb the mountaintop in women’s college hoops.
The sharp contrast is reality: We won’t get to see Bueckers in action this year. This is beyond devastating for Connecticut, the Big East and college basketball.
The injury was suffered during a pickup game Monday, with the torn ACL coming to the same left knee that Bueckers had surgery on this past season when she missed over two months of action.
UConn coach Geno Auriemma issued the following statement:
“We’re all devastated for Paige. She’s worked really hard to get stronger and healthier this offseason, and this is an unfortunate setback. 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.”
Bueckers will undergo surgery Friday at the UConn Health hospital.
John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers the sport in a variety of capacities, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.
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