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Paige Bueckers meeting with doctors to determine next steps in recovery

In other injury news, Dorka Juhász will return from a foot injury and Geno Auriemma explained why he missed the Creighton game.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Monday will mark eight weeks since Paige Bueckers’ left knee surgery to repair an anterior tibial plateau fracture and lateral meniscus tear — which was the estimated length of recovery provided by the school following the operation.

On Sunday, Bueckers will meet with UConn’s team doctors as well as her surgeon to determine what the next steps are in her recovery, which will set a more clear and definitive timeline for her return.

“Rehab’s going great. She looks fantastic,” Auriemma said. “She’s done everything they’ve asked her to do and now we just got to take a look and see: How far has she come? What does that mean in terms of going forward?”

“Not like she’ll play in the Villanova game Wednesday night,” he added later. “But (the meeting is to figure out) when can she start being incorporated into some kind of workouts.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean Bueckers’ return to action is imminent. While she wasn’t wearing her knee brace during part of UConn’s practice open to the media on Saturday, Bueckers still wasn’t moving around all that well. Auriemma hinted that the sophomore could still be weeks away.

“Could be (weeks). Yeah,” he said. “A little while ago, she was months away.”

Bueckers still has more healing physically but from what her coaches and teammates can see, she’s back to her usual self after going through the range of emotions that comes with suffering a major injury.

“She went through that period where she was resigned to it and then angry about it and then frustrated about it and then down about it, and came out on the other side stronger for it and more determined than ever,” Auriemma said. “So she’s run the gamut.”

“You can tell she has a lot more higher spirits, jumping around a lot more, getting on everyone’s nerves more,” Azzi Fudd joked. “It’s also just exciting to have her around as a teammate, having on the bench, telling us stuff. She’s like our fourth, fifth coach on the bench.”

Bueckers initially suffered the non-contact injury in the final minute of UConn’s win over Notre Dame on Dec. 5. She underwent surgery on Dec. 13 and has missed the Huskies’ last 12 games.

Juhász to return on Sunday

After missing the last two games due to a foot issue, Dorka Juhász will play on Sunday against Tennessee, according to Auriemma. In fact, UConn should have everyone except Bueckers available to play — including Caroline Ducharme, who took a shot to the head late in the win over Creighton and didn’t return — for just the second time since November.

“We don’t have anybody for the first time — other than Paige — in a long time that’s not available,” Auriemma said.

Exactly how much Juhász will play is still to be determined, though. She only just returned to practice on Friday and is still working her way back into the mix.

“Dorka hasn’t practiced all week so she’s just kind of getting back into the swing of things, little bit at a time,” Auriemma said. “She worked out yesterday and said she felt good. I’m sure after today’s practice, she’ll say she feels good.”

Auriemma discusses his illness

UConn had to beat Creighton on Wednesday without its head coach after Auriemma stayed back in the locker room due to a non-COVID illness. On Saturday, he explained what happened...sort of.

“I kind of had a premonition that that first quarter was going to go the way it did. So I didn’t want to be carried out on a stretcher,” Auriemma quipped. “I decided to stay in the locker room and save everybody the heartache — or not give everybody a chance to [celebrate].”