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Connecticut basketball star and former Naismith Player of the Year Paige Bueckers will return to Storrs for a fifth season, and legendary coach Geno Auriemma plans to be there as well.
Another fifth-year student, Aubrey Griffin, also confirmed that she will return in 2024-25.
Bueckers, an academic senior, made the announcement during senior night ceremonies at Gampel Pavilion following the team’s 85-44 victory over Georgetown on Friday night.
Telling the crowd that he wanted to “address the elephant in the room,” Bueckers said, “Thankfully, this won’t be my last year.”
His coach followed up that announcement by ending any speculation that he might retire at the end of the season.
UConn’s Paige Bueckers (5) reaches out to coach Geno Auriemma during senior night ceremonies
UConn head coach Geno Auriemma argues that a game was called at South Carolina last week.
He joked with reporters that he was also planning to return next year, “until Paige announced she was coming back.” She then added: “Yes, I’ll be back.”
Bueckers was named national player of the year as a freshman and spent that season playing in front of cardboard cutouts during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading the Huskies to the national semifinals, where they lost to Arizona.
UConn guard Paige Bueckers looks for a shot next to Georgetown’s Kelsey Ransom
He spent most of his sophomore year on the bench with a fractured tibia in his left knee, but returned in time to lead the Huskies to the national championship game, where they lost to South Carolina.
He suffered a torn ACL in that same knee before last season and was out all year.
Bueckers, Aaliyah Edwards, Nika Muhl and Aubrey Griffin were honored Friday.
Griffin, who tore his ACL last month, also announced he will return next season. She is one of five Huskies who will be out for the rest of the season with injuries. The others (Azzi Fudd, Jana El-Alfy, Caroline Ducharme and Annaya Patterson) are expected to return.
Edwards and Muhl did not announce their plans, but both said, “We’re not done yet.”
Bueckers has two years of eligibility remaining. Edwards, Muhl and Griffin each have one.
But both Edwards and Bueckers have been projected as high first-round picks should they enter the WNBA draft.
As international players, Muhl (Croatia) and Edwards (Canada) have also not been able to earn the NIL money that has been flowing to their teammates while they were in college.
UConn forward Aaliyah Edwards, guard Aubrey Griffin, guard Nika Muhl and guard Paige Bueckers cheer on UConn as they conclude senior night ceremonies in Storrs.
Auriemma said he would be surprised if Muhl or Edwards returned for another year.
However, he said he wasn’t sure Bueckers would return until she announced it to the crowd.
“I never pressured her either,” he said.
Bueckers said Thursday that he won’t give up on winning a national championship this season, despite five decisive losses to top teams: North Carolina State, UCLA, Texas, Notre Dame and South Carolina.
UConn has just four regular-season games remaining, including home games against Creighton on Monday in Hartford and Villanova on Feb. 28 in Gampel.