Geno Auriemma is keeping his cards close to his chest when it comes to Paige Bueckers’ status for Thursday’s matchup against No. 19 Arkansas.
The freshman twisted her ankle in the final minutes of UConn’s win over Tennessee last Thursday and though she eventually returned to that game, she sat out the Huskies’ win over Georgetown on Saturday.
According to Auriemma, Bueckers “feels better” and did “some light shooting drills and stuff” on Monday but did not practice on Tuesday. He declined to definitively say whether or not she’ll suit up against the Razorbacks.
“Paige does have a better chance of playing on Thursday then of not playing,” he said.
However, Anna Makurat will be out on Thursday — as well as for the foreseeable future — due to a lower right leg injury.
“Anna is out. The word will be ‘indefinitely’,” Auriemma said. “What’s that mean? I don’t know. It means indefinitely. I don’t have a definite answer for you.”
Makurat also sat out against Georgetown. She had been dealing with the injury for “a couple weeks,” according to the coach, but tried to play through the pain. But typical rehab wasn’t helping her so the team decided to shut her down in order to avoid a more serious injury.
Poffenbarger officially joins the team
Saylor Poffenbarger will be on UConn’s bench for the first time on Thursday. The early enrollee had spent 10 days in a school-mandated quarantine which prevented her from joining the team for any of the Huskies’ last three games.
Poffenbarger practiced with the team on Tuesday, though she had been doing individual workouts with assistant coach Shea Ralph prior.
“She picks things up pretty quickly,” Auriemma noted.
But even with UConn’s backcourt depth thinned due to Bueckers’ and Makurat’s injuries, don’t expect to see the 6-foot-2 freshman against Arkansas. In fact, even Auriemma isn’t sure when (or if) Poffenbarger will be ready to see her first live game action.
“I don’t know that she’s game ready. I don’t think she’ll be game ready in two days,” he said. “At some point I’ll go into gym and I’ll go ‘Hey, I think we should put her in.’ I don’t know when that time is.”
Poffenbarger, originally slated to come to Storrs next season as part of the Huskies’ 2021 recruiting class, joined the team a semester early after graduating from high school in January. The NCAA granted all winter athletes a bonus year of eligibility for this season, so she’ll still have four years to play at the start of next season.
Christyn Williams’ homecoming
Though it might be a year earlier than expected, Christyn Williams will play her homecoming game against the Razorbacks. She’s a native of Little Rock, Arkansas, which is a little less than a three hour drive south of Fayetteville — where the University of Arkansas is located.
Arkansas plans to allow 4,000 fans into the 19,368-seat Bud Walton Arena for Thursday’s game, which means Williams’ friends and family will be able to see her play in-person. Though she wasn’t sure exactly how many people will make the trek up, it’s enough that she used up her entire ticket allotment for the game.
“A lot of people I went to high school with, family members, old teammates, close family friends,” she said on who she expects to see on Thursday.
UConn had originally scheduled Williams’ homecoming for next season against Arkansas-Little Rock, though Auriemma isn’t sure that game will happen anymore because of all the schedule disruptions caused by the pandemic.
“We had a lot of games postponed this year that, contractually, have to be re rescheduled somehow, someway plus the ones that we had coming on that start next year,” he said. “So there’s gonna be a lot of charts coming out, filling it out, what makes sense, what doesn’t make sense. So for now this is what we got (for Williams’ homecoming). If we can go back down here next year, great. If for some reason we can’t, it’s not for lack of trying.”