UConn's Paige Bueckers Plans to Play CBB, Forgo 2023 WNBA Draft After ACL Injury

Erin WalshSeptember 1, 2022

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 03: Paige Bueckers #5 of the Connecticut Huskies dribbles against the South Carolina Gamecocks during the championship game of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at Target Center on April 3, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Ben Solomon/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
Ben Solomon/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

The WNBA will have to wait a little longer for the arrival of Paige Bueckers.

The UConn women's basketball star told reporters Thursday that she will return to the Huskies for the 2023-24 season and will not declare for the WNBA draft. She will be sidelined the entire 2022-23 campaign after tearing her ACL this summer.

"I’m not leaving … I will be playing college basketball again," Bueckers said.

UConn announced Aug. 3 that Bueckers tore the ACL in her left knee in a pickup basketball game. She underwent successful surgery to repair the ailment Aug. 9 and has already begun rehab.

Charlotte Carroll @charlottecrrll

Paige Bueckers in Instagram post: "God put a dream in my heart and even if I have to walk through a nightmare to get it I'm going to keep believing." <a href="https://t.co/qrfoHgozeA">pic.twitter.com/qrfoHgozeA</a>

It's no surprise that Bueckers intends to return to the Huskies for another season. She told Bleacher Report in a June interview that her goal for the 2022-23 campaign was to win a national championship.

"National championship, that's it," Bueckers said when asked what would make a successful 2022-23 season. "I don't think you're going to get a different answer out of me. Getting to the Final Four my freshman year and the national championship last year, the only thing left to do is win it. So that's the goal."

Winning a national title would be the icing on the cake for Bueckers, and she'll have another opportunity to do that in 2023-24. After that, she'll have her sights set on the WNBA and winning a title with whichever team drafts her.

Bueckers emerged as a college hoops star in 2020-21 as a freshman out of Hopkins High School in Minnetonka, Minnesota. She averaged 20.0 points, 4.9 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 2.3 steals in 29 games while shooting 52.4 percent from the floor and 46.4 percent from deep.

The Huskies reached the Final Four when Bueckers was a freshman, and she went on to win the 2021 Wooden Award, 2021 Naismith Trophy and 2021 AP Player of the Year.

The 20-year-old was limited to just 17 games during the 2021-22 season due to a knee injury, which required surgery. She returned for the final two games of the regular season before helping the Huskies reach the NCAA tournament championship game, where they were defeated by South Carolina.

Bueckers averaged 14.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.5 steals while shooting 54.4 percent from the floor and 35.3 percent from beyond the arc as a sophomore.

The Huskies will look to reach the national title game again this year, but it will be much more difficult to do without Bueckers.

The 2023 WNBA draft will feature the likes of Aliyah Boston—who was named Naismith College Player of the Year, Naismith Defensive Player of the Year and NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player last season—in addition to Haley Jones, Tamari Key, Ashley Owusu and Ayoka Lee.