SAN ANTONIO — Paige Bueckers is in a class all by herself.
UConn’s star guard became the first freshman ever to win The Associated Press women’s basketball player of the year award Wednesday.
Bueckers helped lead the Huskies to their 13th consecutive Final Four with 28 points in the regional final win over Baylor on Monday night, just the latest star turn for the phenomenol 19-year-old Minnesota native.
“It’s amazing, surreal for people to think of me that highly and to be in that position as a freshman,” Bueckers said. “To get this award, I’m extremely humbled and grateful.”
Bueckers was informed she won the award by coach Geno Auriemma during a team video session on Monday. She broke down as she accepted it in front of her teammates.
“A lot has happened over the past year things that could bring people down,” Bueckers said. “To get a reward and find something positive in these times, you cherish them. I was there with my teammates and coaching staff and to get that award with them around me makes you be so grateful for the position I’m in.”
Bueckers was an overwhelming choice, receiving 21 votes from the 30-member national media panel that chooses the weekly AP Top 25. Dana Evans of Louisville was second with four votes; Rhyne Howard of Kentucky received two votes; and Michigan;s Naz Hillmon, Texas’s Charli Collier and Iowa freshman Caitlin Clark all received a vote.
Former UConn greats Maya Moore and Breanna Stewart both won the award as sophomores. All other winners have been juniors or seniors since the AP started honoring players in 1995.
And now comes Bueckers.
“That’s crazy to think about, all the great college players who ever played,” Bueckers said. “The great freshmen who had done great things in their first year in college basketball, It really is surreal that it’s never been done before.”
It’s the 12th time a UConn player has been honored.
Bueckers, who is from Edina, Minnesota, is averaging 20.1 points, 5.9 assists and 4.8 rebounds this season. She became the first UConn player ever to score 30 or more points in three consecutive games and also set the school record for points in her NCAA debut when she had 24 in the opener against High Point.
“Name one player that has taken a team this young to where we are today,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “Who’s done more than her? And if you can give me a better argument, then I would say I’ll vote for them, too. But I don’t think you can.”