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Notebook: Paige Bueckers “looks really good” in practice

Plus, Aubrey Griffin returns to the team while Nika Mühl while Azzi Fudd took in some local basketball.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

After UConn women’s basketball took three days off following its Big East Tournament championship, head coach Geno Auriemma said on Sunday that Paige Bueckers “looks really good” in practice.

Andrea Hudy, the team’s director of sports performance, has tracked each player’s measurables throughout the season. Looking strictly at those numbers, Bueckers is fully recovered — at least physically.

“[Bueckers is] at the same levels that she was at before the surgery,” Auriemma said. “So that’s a great sign.”

That doesn’t mean she’ll look like the National Player of the Year in UConn’s NCAA Tournament opener against Mercer, though. After the Big East Tournament, Auriemma said getting Bueckers right mentally would be the top focus in the 11 days before the NCAA Tournament. In that regard, she’s making progress.

“When you come off an injury as severe as the one that Paige had, [the mental side is] the last thing that come back,” he said. “But each and every day, I see more and more and more of her being her old self physically, mentally and emotionally. Obviously, she still has her moments but she would be having those moments surgery or no surgery.”

After getting the start on senior day, Bueckers came off the bench in each of UConn’s three Big East Tournament games. Whether or not that continues into the NCAA Tournament will depend on the next few days of practice, though.

“I think the longer she’s on the practice floor and the more minutes she gets in practice and the more she responds better the next day, I think that’ll be my decision,” Auriemma said. “So if she acts like she’s back to normal and her stamina looks like it’s back to normal — which I don’t expect it to be 100 percent — I would imagine that her minutes are going to go up and we have to make a decision about the lineup.”

Bueckers didn’t sound too concerned when asked on Sunday about starting.

“I don’t care,” she said. “Whatever the team needs from me — off the bench, 30 minutes, 20 minutes, 40 minutes — I’m excited with whatever role.”

Aubrey Griffin returns

After being away from the team while recovering from back surgery at home, Aubrey Griffin returned to campus this week, according to Nika Mühl. Griffin has already been ruled out for the season but the Huskies are still happy to have her around again.

“We haven’t seen her for a while so having her back is great,” Mühl said. “We love Aubrey. We couldn’t wait for her to come back.”

Griffin never played this season after dealing with a host of injuries since October. She underwent surgery to repair a disk injury in her back on Jan. 13. Griffin’s recovery is expected to take four months.

Fudd visits Trinity, Ivy League Tournament

Azzi Fudd spent the time between the Big East Tournaments checking out some local basketball. On Wednesday, she visited with Trinity women’s basketball in Hartford while on the campus for an NIL shoot.

“I had a shoot there for an NIL deal but I’m family friends with the head coach (Emily Garner) so it’s a nice win-win situation,” Fudd said.

On Friday, Fudd was spotted at the Ivy League Women’s Basketball Tournament in Boston. She went up to watch Carly Rivera, a junior on Columbia who went to the same high school as Fudd, but also got a chance to catch up with Carla Berube, the head coach at Princeton.

“My best friend Carly Rivera plays on Columbia and then Carla Berube coached me and Paige (with USA Basketball) so it was nice to see all of them.”

Berube and Princeton defeated Rivera and Columbia in the championship game, 77-59.