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‘I knew it was bad’: Paige Bueckers discusses her torn ACL for the first time


Just a month ago, the trajectory of an entire UConn women’s basketball season and her career changed dramatically when Paige Bookers was playing pickup at the Wealth Champions Center. She was running full speed and tried to stop when her left leg just gave up.

“I knew it was bad. “I knew something was wrong.”

She immediately limped into her trainer’s room for her first test. She didn’t look good at the time, but the full extent of her injuries was still unknown. That night she had her MRI and the doctor had the results right away, but she said she wanted another test in the morning to be sure.

The next day, Buykers’ worst fears were confirmed. Torn ACL in left knee and will miss the entire 2022-23 seasonBookers was still in shock at the moment, so the gravity of the news didn’t really hit her. did not start processing it.

“Once they posted it and the text came, all the posts came. When I saw it, it really became real,” Bookers said. “Everybody knows about it. It really happened. I had to own it.”

The first week after injury was the toughest for Buckers. She struggled to stay positive while her stress and anxiety weighed on her, especially before her surgery.But once she realized what had happened, she Mentally turned the corner.

Bueckers read avidly — prayers, books, and quotes about how Kobe Bryant didn’t dwell on injuries — her faith and her teammates, especially Caroline Ducharme, Dorka Juhas, Aubrey Griffin, Fudd relying on those who have suffered ACL tears before, like Azzie. These helped give her realistic expectations for the recovery process over the next 9 to 12 months.

“I’m walking right now, so I’m like, ‘Why can’t I play?’ I try to get back as soon as possible,” Bookers explained. “But they told me it was going to be a long process and a long road, and how it went, what we could start with, and the different perspectives and the different ways they did it. I’m asking. I’m just trying to learn more so I can better my process.”

Some of the most important advice given by her teammates is that you can’t pace your recovery based on how your knee feels.

“They told me…you’ll start to see yourself coming back, but at the same time your knee will feel better, but it hasn’t healed yet.” Don’t go too far and don’t force yourself back.”

Bueckers was also contacted by former UConn star Breanna Stewart. She was suffering from a torn Achilles tendon, not a torn ACL, but still wanted to send her wishes and offer her advice as well.

UConn had ruled Buekers out of the season when the injury was announced, but reaffirmed that she won’t be playing this year, even if her rehabilitation is ahead of schedule. She doesn’t want to make short-term decisions that could affect the rest of her basketball career.

“If I come back too soon, someone else will get hurt, so I’m not going to play the season,” she said. , because I never want to take a break like this again in my career.”

Bookers also said She will return to UConn next season Despite being eligible for the 2023 WNBA Draft.

“I’m not leaving. It doesn’t matter,” she said. “People have asked me, ‘What do you think about the fifth year, the year of COVID, the redshirts this year?’ intend to.”

So far, Bueckers’ recovery is going well. She has been exercising on a stationary bike and plans to start hydrotherapy soon. rice field.

“What I can do on the basketball court is very therapeutic for me,” Bookers said. “So I think these are all really big steps.”

Meanwhile, she’s starting to figure out a role for next season.When Bueckers was sidelined last year while recovering from a tibial plateau fracture and a torn meniscus, she became one of the most vocal and active figures on UConn’s bench. was a person Now that she knows she’s totally out, Buckers plans to take it to the next level for her.

“Yeah, I’m the head coach. The coach[Jeno Auriemma]let me take his place,” she joked.

However, there are some truths to it. Bueckers plans to take on a kind of coaching role.

“I’ve told them I’m the players’ coach. I’m going to be the kind of person they can turn to when they need support, not just someone they talk to and push,” she said. “I definitely have a job as a coach, but I’m not sure what position I’m in yet.”

At this point, Bookers said he likes the idea of ​​Auriemma giving staff extra help.

“He likes it, but I don’t know if he’ll like it when it starts,” she laughed.

It’s been a rough last month for Bookers, both physically and mentally, but she’s a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I have refused to mop and have worked on self-improvement. From this point on, Bueckers sees only the positive side.

“There are so many things in my life that I am grateful for,” she said. “I mean, I didn’t even have to pay for the surgery. There are things…everyone has their own journey and their own pain.

Few players love basketball more than Bueckers, but she was robbed of it twice in less than eight months. She would be forgiven if she felt a little sorry for herself, instead she did the opposite of hers and showed a maturity well beyond her age.

“It’s been a process, but I feel I handled it well,” she said. “I think it only goes up from here.”

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