Bueckers is living through a year unlike any that her predecessors experienced at her age. She might well be a generational talent. But first she has to get through a year that will shape a generation.
If not for the pandemic, Bueckers said she would have left for Storrs toward the end of May. Instead she was still home in Minnesota in the days that followed George Floyd's death in police custody on May 25. She said she participated in marches and food drives for the communities affected by the protests that roiled Minneapolis. Bueckers, who is white, acknowledged that she understands she doesn't experience the same injustice as members of the Black community. She also knows Drew might.
"It sucks having to have those conversations with your little brother on how he should act because of his skin color," said Bueckers. "And him being only 7, it's even harder because he's so young he doesn't truly understand it. It's been hard having those conversations. And yeah, I'm scared for him and scared for myself because that's my little brother, my best friend, really. I'm really close to him. Just having that fear of one wrong judgement and his life could be on the line, it's super scary and it's something I want to change -- something I want to help change."
And while she wouldn't follow Stewart out onto the limb of predicting four championships before she plays a game for Huskies, a promise Stewart kept, Bueckers left no doubt about the company she aspires to keep on the court.
"It's just never a plan for me to lose -- I'm not going to go out and say I only want to win one or two," Bueckers said with apparent angst at how those words would sound. "I want to win four. Everybody should want to win four. So I don't really understand the problem with people saying that. I mean, that's obviously a goal of mine is to win four national championships, as it should be everybody else's."
Imagine the horror if Paige had followed Marlene to Texas Tech. Of course, the advantage in being a star is that at the first sign of horrible coaching, one would recognize that, and just leave.And she knew that she wasn't going to put up with her toxic coaching style.
Paige Bueckers is still more than a month away from playing her first game for UConn, but the nation's top-ranked recruit has already gotten a taste of Division I trash talk from someone with 11 national championships and more than 1,000 wins.
After the first full practice of the season Wednesday, UConn coach Geno Auriemma explained what it's like to coach the 5-foot-11 freshman guard, who already has a bigger Instagram following than that of Sue Bird, Tina Charles, Maya Moore, Breanna Stewart or Diana Taurasi.
"Hey, it's just great to be in the presence of greatness and be in her aura of her celebrity-ness," Auriemma said. "We've been such a downtrodden program for all these years. We needed that savior to come in here and save us. She's the anointed one. I'm waiting for the three Magi [to] come to bring me some gifts for having her."
Bueckers acknowledged Wednesday that she gets an earful from the famously sarcastic coach.
"He calls me Paige Kardashian all the time," Bueckers said.
The Gatorade Female Athlete of the Year as a high school senior -- a national award across sports whose previous winners include UConn greats Charles, Moore and Stewart -- Bueckers didn't sound Wednesday like someone bothered by her coach's needling.
"I go into his office all the time just to talk," Bueckers said. "Just to be able to have that open relationship, where we can talk about anything and have a good relationship, means a whole lot. That's huge in where I wanted to decide where I go to school is having a great relationship. I'm a big relationship person."
Azzi Fudd, the consensus top women's basketball prospect in the Class of 2021, ended years of speculation on Wednesday, announcing that she will attend UConn in the fall, joining one of the most dynastic programs in the history of sports.
Fudd, who was 12 when she received her first scholarship offer, has been compared to WNBA superstar and likely Hall of Famer Maya Moore. At 15, she outshot the best boys' prospects in the country at Stephen Curry's SC30 Select Camp. At 16, she became the first sophomore in history to win the Gatorade National Girls' Basketball Player of the Year award. She turned 18 on Wednesday, and planned to mark the occasion by signing her national letter of intent on the first day of the NCAA's early signing period.