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UConn’s Paige Bueckers to return Friday vs. St. John’s

The superstar is back after missing the last 19 games with a left knee injury.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

She’s back.

On Thursday, UConn women’s basketball announced sophomore guard Paige Bueckers will return to action in Friday’s game against St. John’s at the XL Center. She had previous missed the team’s last 19 games due to a tibial plateau fracture and torn meniscus suffered on Dec. 5 against Notre Dame.

Bueckers warmed up with the team and dressed in uniform during the Huskies’ win over Marquette on Wednesday but didn’t play. Head coach Geno Auriemma said afterwards that she would meet with Dr. Robert A. Arciero — the chief of the Sports Medicine Division of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at UConn Health — on Thursday.

In the final minute of UConn’s win over Notre Dame on Dec. 5, Bueckers went down with a non-contact left knee injury and needed to be carried off the floor. On Dec. 13, she underway surgery on that knee to repair an anterior tibial plateau fracture and lateral meniscus tear. The recovery took eight weeks and she only returned to basketball activities two weeks ago.

Bueckers participated in team activities during practice for the first team on Feb. 16 but Auriemma threw cold water on the idea of her returning in the regular season after UConn’s win over Georgetown on Feb. 20.

“There’s there’s some really good days where she feels like ‘I could play tomorrow.’ And then there’s days where she’s reminded, ‘No you can’t,’” he said. “So there’s more good days than not but she’s not going to be playing in this coming week. Let’s put it that way. You’re not going to see here, Wednesday, Friday or Sunday.”

However, the coach changed his tune by Wednesday and sounded more optimistic after Bueckers participated in warmups.

“The kid just has this knack of she heals at her own pace,” Auriemma said.

UConn went 15-4 without Bueckers, though the team dealt with a host of other injuries and illness as everyone except Aaliyah Edwards and Evina Westbrook missed a game at some point. The Huskies have only had four contests where everyone aside from Bueckers was available since the injury — the win over DePaul on Jan. 26 and the last three games.

In six games this season, Bueckers averaged 21.2 points, 6.2 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 2.7 steals in 36.4 minutes per game. UConn did not say whether or not she’ll be on a minute limit upon her return.