UConn women's basketball cleans up Big East preseason awards

Published on Tuesday, 19 October 2021 18:41
Written by CARL ADAMEC

Journal Inquirer

NEW YORK - Paige Bueckers’ historic freshman season with the UConn women’s basketball team wasn’t forgotten by the Big East coaches today.

Bueckers, the reigning national and Big East Player of the Year, was the unanimous choice as the league’s top performer in voting by the coaches announced at Big East Media Day at Madison Square Garden.

UConn guard Azzi Fudd was the unanimous choice as preseason Freshman of the Year. The Huskies were the unanimous pick to repeat as Big East regular season champion after a perfect run through the league in their first season back after seven years in the American Athletic Conference.

Named to the 10-player preseason all-league team were Huskies’ seniors Christyn Williams and Olivia Nelson-Ododa and sophomore Aaliyah Edwards. As the Player of the Year selection, Bueckers was not part of the all-league team.

The sophomore guard from Eden Prairie, Minnesota averaged 20.0 points, 4.9 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 2.3 steals in a remarkable rookie campaign. She set a school single-game record for assists with 14 at Butler and became the first player in program history to record three straight 30-point games. She joined former UConn great Maya Moore by sweeping Big East Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year honors. She then became the first freshman to be named the Associated Press and United States Basketball Writers Player of the Year and to win the Naismith Award and Wooden Award.

In the process she was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Big East tournament and NCAA tournament River Walk Regional. She was also selected to the Final Four all-tournament team, though the Huskies’ 13th straight appearance in the Final Four and a 28-2 campaign ended with a semifinal loss to Arizona.

Bueckers had surgery in late April to repair an osteochondral defect on her right ankle. She is practicing full time as UConn gets ready for its regular season opener on Nov. 14 against Arkansas at the XL Center.

“Paige is Paige,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said Friday. “Paige is more comfortable than she was last year. She’s not as hesitant to take shots as she was last year.”

Fudd became the fifth No. 1 recruit in the seven years to choose UConn when she signed her national letter of intent in November. She was the 2019 Gatorade Player of the Year - the first high school sophomore to take the honor - and a 2021 McDonald’s All-American.

The guard from Arlington, Virginia teamed with Bueckers to help USA Basketball win gold medals at the 2017 FIBA Americas U-16 Championships and 2018 FIBA U-17 World Cup. This summer she and UConn teammate and classmate Amari DeBerry helped Team USA to gold at the FIBA U-19 World Cup.

“I don’t really feel any pressure,” Fudd said on Oct. 10 when the Huskies began preseason practice. “I’m nervous just to perform well, but those are intrinsic nerves. I don’t really feel any pressure from anyone else. I just want to do well.”

Williams averaged 16.3 points a season ago and was an all-Big East first-team choice. She was also named to a conference all-tournament team for the third time.

Nelson-Ododa was the 2021 Big East co-Defensive Player of the Year after averaging 12.0 points and 7.8 rebounds.

Edwards, who played with Team Canada at the Tokyo Olympic Games this summer, was the 2021 Big East Sixth Woman of the Year after averaging 10.7 points and 5.7 rebounds.

UConn received the maximum 10 first-place votes to lead the preseason poll. Coaches cannot vote for their own teams or players and Auriemma’s first-place vote went to DePaul.

The Blue Demons were second in the poll with Seton Hall, Marquette, and Villanova rounding out the top five.

UConn will open its 20-game league schedule Dec. 3 at Seton Hall. The 2022 Big East tournament will be held March 4-7 at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Posted in New Britain Herald, UConn on Tuesday, 19 October 2021 18:41. Updated: Tuesday, 19 October 2021 18:44.