As Paige Bueckers makes her much anticipated comeback on Wednesday during the No.2-ranked Huskies’ season opener against Dayton, it’s clear that she has undergone a significant evolution since her last UConn appearance 584 days ago. After unfortunately tearing her ACL in a pickup game last year, she has revamped her approach to the game, and in many respects, her life. 

People close to Bueckers affirm her success: “Paige has improved as a basketball player compared to when she was national player of the year,” remarked Uconn coach Geno Auriemma in late October. 

Considered to be an extraordinary talent even before she played her first college game three years ago, Bueckers achieved the remarkable feat of people the first freshman to claim the Naismith, AP, and Wooden player of the year awards. Her exceptional performance led to favorable comparisons with Taurasi, and it appeared inevitable that she would lead UConn to its first national championship since 2016. 

Coming back from injury is an overwhelming experience of emotions. Bueckers knew she couldn’t approach this injury like the ones she’s had in the past. This past year she began to focus on increasing the strength and durability of her muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones through weightlifting, holistic approaches to healing, as well as pilates. 

“I wouldn’t trade my life for the world, I know that everything I went through up to this point has shaped me to be who I am as a person and as a player,” Bueckers said. “If I didn’t go through some of the things I went through, I wouldn’t be who I am. The story I want is just the story of overcoming adversity.” 

Bueckers made her unofficial return to the court in an exhibition game Saturday against Southern Conneticut State, but she and the Huskies officially start the season at 7 p.m. ET tonight against Dayton.