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Paige Bueckers fully cleared, status for European games still uncertain

Bueckers participated in her first full practice on Friday and is still deciding if she's ready for game-action.

Photo: Ian Bethune

On Wednesday, Paige Bueckers announced that she received full medical clearance from her ACL injury almost exactly one-year post-surgery. Two days later, she participated in her first full practice back ahead of UConn’s trip to Europe — a key step in determining whether she’ll play in any of the team’s four exhibition games overseas.

“Today will be Paige's first day of going up and down full court with contact and everything that goes with playing. Tomorrow will be her second and Sunday will be your third,” Geno Auriemma said on Friday. “I think she's going to determine after these three days: ‘Just where am I? And what's my comfort level?’”

When Bueckers last spoke with the media in June, she revealed that she had been cleared for everything except 5-on-5 play but added that she was in no rush. Even though she was optimistic about the progress of her recovery, Bueckers wasn’t sure whether or not she’d play in Europe.

I mean, I probably could (play) but we're still trying to balance [if it's] worth it,” she said at the time.

Bueckers initially tore her ACL while playing a pick-up game at UConn on Aug. 1, 2022 and underwent surgery on Aug. 5. In total, the recovery took 369 days — longer than the traditional ACL recovery timeline of 6-9 months. That turned out to be part of the plan, though.

“[Players coming back from an ACL tear are] being held out longer because they're finding out that the longer you wait, the more time you rehab and the more time you give it, theoretically, it's supposed to increase your chances of getting back to where you used to be,” Auriemma explained.

The Huskies aren’t expecting her to look like her old self on day one, though. Not only has she missed so much time due to injury over the last two seasons, the team wanted her to take it easy when she left campus after summer workouts. Some rust has been evident — even if she doesn’t want to admit it.

“Paige’s reasoning for shooting 1-for-30 on day one was the [international] ball’s too light, the ball’s too slippery,” Auriemma relayed. “I said, ‘Yeah, they probably changed the height of the basket, the rim is a little bit smaller than it used to be.’ How about you just say that, ‘I didn't spend a lot of time shooting, I just relaxed,’ — which is what I wanted you to do.”

Elsewhere on the injury front, Ayanna Patterson and Amari DeBerry aren’t expected to play in Europe. Patterson had a knee procedure over the offseason and watched Friday’s practice from a stationary bike during the portion open to the media. Meanwhile, DeBerry had back surgery in May but participated in most of the practice session.

Aside from that, “everybody else seems good to go,” according to Auriemma.

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