The UConn Huskies' Paige Bueckers, the 2020-21 women's college basketball national player of the year, has been cleared roughly one year after ACL surgery on her left knee, she announced on Instagram on Wednesday.
"All cleared and ready for takeoff," Bueckers posted, adding "369" in reference to the number of days since her surgery. "GOD DID!"
Bueckers said earlier this summer that she was participating in all basketball activities aside from live 5-on-5 play. Coach Geno Auriemma told reporters in late June that she was "90%" recovered and is expected to be available at the start of the 2023-24 season. The one-year anniversary mark of her ACL surgery was Aug. 5.
The 5-11 guard from Minnesota has missed the majority of the past two seasons due to left knee injuries -- the first, a tibial plateau fracture and lateral meniscus tear in December of her sophomore season and the second, the ACL tear suffered in August before her junior year. Following a dazzling collegiate debut campaign in which she took home virtually every individual accolade, Bueckers appeared in 17 games as a sophomore before missing her entire junior season.
Auriemma had been very complimentary about Bueckers' progress when he last spoke with the media.
"This is the best she's ever been, the strongest she's ever been, the fittest she's ever been," Auriemma said. "This is the most time she has spent working on her body, her mind, [and] just taking care of herself. ... [The injury layoff] showed her, if you want a long career, this is how you're gonna have to go about it from here on in injuries, no injuries, it doesn't matter. This is what you're gonna have to do. And she's embraced it."
The Huskies are eyeing the program's 12th national championship going into the 2023-24 season. They fell in the national title game 2022 to South Carolina and had their streak of 14 consecutive Final Four appearances snapped in 2023 with a loss to Ohio State in the Sweet 16. They are No. 2 in ESPN's Way-Too-Early Rankings behind defending national champion LSU.