Paige Bueckers weighing more time at UConn vs. WNBA draft

Alexa Philippou, ESPNJan 9, 2024, 03:55 PM ET

CloseCovers women’s college basketball and the WNBA
Previously covered UConn and the WNBA Connecticut Sun for the Hartford Courant
Stanford graduate and Baltimore native with further experience at the Dallas Morning News, Seattle Times and Cincinnati Enquirer

UConn star Paige Bueckers said having the opportunity to play more college basketball, especially alongside her currently injured teammates, will be a “deciding factor” in whether she decides to declare for the 2024 WNBA draft.

“I think that’s what it’s all about,” Bueckers, the 2021 national player of the year, told reporters Tuesday. “It’s not about teams in the draft; who’s got what pick. It’s all about me loving playing here, me loving my teammates and wanting to get more experiences and more time with them and more time in the program.

“And so that’s I think the deciding factor — just wanting to be here longer and not anything necessarily that’s already picked and chosen in the draft.”

Bueckers is currently projected to be the No. 3 overall pick in ESPN’s latest mock draft, if she declares. She is averaging 19.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.2 steals per game this season, while shooting 53.9% from the field and a career-best 50.8% from 3.

A year that started with so much promise for the Huskies has taken a hit due to season-ending injuries to junior guard Azzi Fudd (ACL/meniscus), sophomore forward Ayanna Patterson (knee) and redshirt freshman forward Jana El Alfy (Achilles).

Aubrey Griffin suffered a serious knee injury last week, and coach Geno Auriemma is not expecting good news on her prospects for returning this season.

Junior guard Caroline Ducharme (head/neck spasms) is also out indefinitely.

All those players, including Griffin, who is a graduate student, could return to UConn in 2024-25 due to the free year of eligibility granted to athletes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The promise of Bueckers and Fudd, both No. 1 recruits who were close friends before coming to Storrs, sharing the backcourt together has not been fully realized due to their respective injuries. The two have only played 17 games together in three seasons.

Bueckers, who missed most of her sophomore season with a knee injury and then the entire 2022-23 season after tearing her ACL in August 2022, will have two years of collegiate eligibility remaining after this season.

The All-American, the first freshman to win national player of the year, helped guide the Huskies to the national semifinal in 2021 as well as the national title game in 2022, where they fell to South Carolina.

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