Hopkins girls basketball guard Paige Bueckers won a title closer to home earlier this month after receiving a trifecta of national awards.
Bueckers, who averaged 22 points per game in leading Hopkins to a 30-0 record this season, had previously been named National Player of the Year by USA Basketball, Gatorade and the Naismith Foundation. Her most recent honor is the Hopkins Athena Award, which is presented annually to the school’s most outstanding senior female athlete.
“No one is more deserving than Paige,” Hopkins girls basketball coach Brian Cosgriff said earlier this week. “She is the best athlete who has ever come along in Minnesota, and she’s very humble about it. The most important thing to Paige is having fun with her teammates. She just lives for that.”
During her Hopkins basketball career, Bueckers made it to the state championship game five years in a row. Unfortunately, this year’s final between Hopkins and Farmington could not be played due to the coronavirus pandemic. Since Hopkins beat Farmington by 25 points earlier in the season, a Royal victory was all but guaranteed, yet the season goes on the books as a co-championship.
A four-time All-State player, Bueckers has improved each year. Her scoring average didn’t go up in her senior season, but her assist total did. In several games late in the season, she took very few shots while registering double figure assists.
“Paige is very unselfish,” Cosgriff said. “But she senses when it’s time for her to take over the game.”
That usually happened when Hopkins played its two toughest Lake Conference rivals, Wayzata and St. Michael-Albertville. In her junior year, Bueckers scored her career-high of 41 points in a victory over Wayzata.
In an interview earlier this season, Bueckers talked about her love for her teammates.
“We’re a family,” the McDonalds All-American said. “From 1-18, everybody is a sister. We play for each other.”
Bueckers not only said that, she lived it on the court. The proof came in a 77-59 victory over Eden Prairie when she scored 20 points and dished out 17 assists.
The Hopkins Athena winner became known for her gracious interaction with fans after each game. As many as 100 young fans would line up to get her autograph on pictures, shirts and basketballs and take pictures with her.
She explained why she obliged these requests.
“I was a kid once and I know how much I looked up to the older girls,” Bueckers said.
Asked about the constant requests for autographs, she said, “I’ll do it every time.”
No wonder she was named Miss Basketball of Minnesota for 2020. She was such an obvious choice, not only because of her ability, but also because of the type of person she is, Cosgriff observed. In her junior and senior seasons, Bueckers led the Royals to 62 consecutive wins.
Next season, Bueckers will step into the lineup for Geno Auriemma’s national powerhouse at the University of Connecticut.
“UConn hasn’t won the NCAA title for a few years,” Cosgriff said. “And with Paige joining the program, expectations are high. Their perception is she’ll take them back to the championship. I know she’s up to the challenge.”