Eric Gay/Associated Press
After becoming the biggest star in women’s college basketball as a freshman, Connecticut’s Paige Bueckers has been named the 2021 Naismith Women’s Player of the Year.
The Atlanta Tipoff Club announced Saturday that Bueckers beat out Kentucky’s Rhyne Howard, Louisville’s Dana Evans and South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston for the award. The 19-year-old is the first freshman to win the women’s award in its 39-year history, and she joins Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis and Zion Williamson as the only first-year players, male or female, to claim the honor.
Bueckers is the seventh player in UConn women’s basketball history to win the award. She joins a group that includes Rebecca Lobo, Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore, Tina Charles and Breanna Stewart.
Coming out of Hopkins High School in Minnesota, Bueckers was the most-hyped player in the 2020 recruiting class. She was ranked as the best overall recruit by ESPN.com.
One year after signing her letter of intent with the Huskies, Bueckers put up 17 points, nine rebounds, five assists and five steals in her first college game. She went on to average 20.1 points on 52.8 percent shooting, 5.9 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game.
Bueckers helped UConn win the Big East regular-season and tournament titles and earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA women’s tournament before it bowed out to Arizona in the Final Four. She was named Big East and Associated Press Player of the Year.