Paige Bueckers Has the SWAGGIEST Sport within the Nation

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Ask individuals who find out about Paige Bueckers’ sport, and they’ll present lengthy, particular lists of all of the issues she must do higher. Tara Starks, her AAU coach with the Minnesota Metro Stars, says Bueckers can enhance her on-court communication, get stronger, and tighten up her jumper. Her coach, Chauncee Hollingsworth, factors to all these areas, and provides that she might stand to tighten up her deal with and get higher defensively, too. Level is, Bueckers nonetheless has plenty of room to enhance.

Which is fairly scary whenever you understand she’s already the perfect highschool participant within the nation.

Ask the recruiting analysts, ask Starks or Hollingsworth, ask her teammates, and positively ask anybody who’s tried to protect her: Bueckers already does plenty of issues rather well. The 5-11 senior at Hopkins HS in suburban Minneapolis is hyper-skilled, a ferocious competitor and likewise arguably probably the most entertaining participant within the prep ranks. “I’ve a sure manner I carry myself on the courtroom—assured, not too cocky,” Bueckers says. “I don’t know if there’s one other phrase for ‘swaggy,’ however that’s what individuals say about my sport.”

Folks say loads, however a few assessments stand out.

“To begin with, she’s expert—tremendous expert,” Hollingsworth says, earlier than including with amusing that “no one expects her to be that expert and a white woman.”

Then there’s Starks, who highlights the flexibility that pops out to anybody who’s ever seen Bueckers play: “She’s like a Magic Johnson kind. She sees the ground two or three performs upfront. She passes the ball higher than anyone I’ve ever seen.”

There’s loads that units Bueckers aside, and the variations have been obvious early. She doesn’t come from a very athletic household, however she embraced the sport. “I used to be a type of youngsters who performed the entire sports activities, however basketball was totally different for me,” she says. “I was down within the basement drilling [when] it was too chilly to go outdoors. I simply fell in love with it.” And whereas she’s pushed to place within the typically lonely work that greatness requires, Bueckers’ love for the sport is all concerning the individuals round her.

“The factor I like most might be the relationships, enjoying with my workforce,” she says. “I don’t assume I’d have as a lot enjoyable if I used to be enjoying one-on-one. I put my teammates first, and I like seeing different individuals succeed. For me it’s all about seeing different individuals do nice issues.”

That helps clarify the passing—Bueckers’ spotlight reel is a ridiculous mixture of behind-the-back and no-look dimes—however it’s additionally on the essence of how she approaches the sport. Starks says she typically teases Bueckers about “over-cheering” for her teammates, however the coach is aware of her star participant’s enthusiasm is real. “If she’s on the bench, she’s cheering, she’s teaching the youthful youngsters. Even when it’s simply so simple as a pleasant cross and somebody scores off of it, she’s off the bench cheering.”

Simply don’t take that kindness for weak point. Bueckers has that killer intuition that every one the greats possess, and woe to the opponent who brings it out of her—like one highschool foe final 12 months who received in Bueckers’ face after fouling her to say, “Be quiet, you haven’t even gained state.” Bueckers’ reply: “OK, cool. However I do have three gold medals…” To be clear, she was speaking about worldwide event victories with USA Basketball, and she or he added a fourth final summer time on the FIBA U19 World Cup. Oh, and final spring? She lastly led Hopkins to that elusive state title. “We ended up profitable by 30,” Bueckers says. “We weren’t shedding that sport.”

Now it’s about defending that state title, chasing nationwide POY honors and setting her college’s profession scoring report earlier than suiting up for UConn subsequent winter. Sure, she’s nonetheless received a lot to work on. Think about the perfect getting that significantly better.

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Ryan Jones is a Contributing Editor at SLAM. Comply with him on Twitter at @thefarmerjones.

Portraits by Wale Agboola/DEEN

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