Paige Bueckers tore her ACL during a pickup game on Monday. It’s going to cost her entire junior season, just a year after a tibial plateau fracture suffered in December of last season required surgery and kept her sidelined until the end of February.

It’s a cruel curveball thrown to one of the sports’ most impressive phenoms who’s already done the minor setback for a major comeback spiel. 

Her resurgence in the NCAA tournament last season was beyond memorable as the hobbled Bueckers put up double figure points in five of six games en route to a championship bout with South Carolina. The Gamecocks won handily, but this upcoming year was supposed to be UConn’s shot at revenge before Aliyah Boston seemingly leaves for the WNBA.

“It’s so so crazy because you work so hard to get back healthy, you feel stronger than ever, and you are playing your best basketball and with one sudden movement it all shifts,” Bueckers said on Instagram

Aside from just the pure hoops talk of it all comes another crushing injury for a notoriously competitive talent. And that’s all tougher to deal with when you’re a star player for UConn who’s amassed more than 1 million Instagram followers, and co-starred with a fleet of impressive stars who’ve hyped the 2024 WNBA draft class as one that could change the league.

Recovering from injury is hard enough in the physical sense, but the mental aspect can not be forgotten. Bueckers is one of the most hyped high school women’s basketball talents ever, and for two consecutive seasons, things out of her power have taken from what she can give. 

Bueckers will have at least one more season (and possibly two after that if she chooses to take an extra year given from Covid) to fulfill her dream of winning a national championship. Should all things go according to plan, we’ll get to see her play professionally, too. The 20-year-old is just at the start of her journey. But damn, this stings.

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