The nation’s best just got better. Both of them.
Hopkins junior guard Paige Bueckers, the nation’s top-ranked girls’ basketball player in the class of 2020, announced Monday she will attend Connecticut, the nation’s most decorated college program.
Bueckers announced her choice on social media, selecting the Huskies over the likes of Notre Dame, Minnesota and numerous other schools.
Barely two weeks ago Bueckers led Hopkins to the Class 4A state championship — the school’s seventh — and its first unbeaten season in program history.
The Royals have compiled a 120-8 record since Bueckers’ first season with the team as an eighth-grader, when her prowess already was turning heads among basketball observers.
“As a young kid, I always dreamed of playing basketball at the Division I level, under Coach Geno Auriemma at the University of Connecticut,” Bueckers wrote on Twitter, “and now I take my first steps into realizing that dream.”
UConn has won a record 11 national championships under Auriemma. On Sunday, the Huskies advanced to their 12th consecutive Final Four and 20th overall with an 80-73 victory over Louisville.
Bueckers has won gold medals as a member of the 2018 Youth Olympic Games, 2018 International Basketball Federation Under-17 World Cup and 2017 International Basketball Federation Americas under-16 teams.
As a four-year player with Hopkins, Bueckers played on teams that reached the state tournament each year, finishing runner-up three times before this season. She is the program’s second all-time leading scorer with 2,288 career points. Leslie Knight holds down the No. 1 spot with 2,335 points.
Bueckers will be the first Minnesota high school player to play for the Huskies in nearly 25 years. Sarah Northway of Brainerd was recruited in 1993 and joined the team after spending one season at Arizona.
Bueckers was one of the five finalists for the Naismith High School Girls’ Player of the Year. The lone junior in the group, she averaged 24.4 points, 5.4 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 4.6 steals per game this past season. She shot 58 percent from the floor and 83 percent from the free-throw line.
Named the Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year for the second consecutive season, Bueckers is all about building relationships in the team-oriented sport. She is driven to win as one collective group.
“I’m a really big relationship person,” Bueckers said in an interview last month. “Having to pick one was hard. I had so many great relationships during my recruiting.”
Those ties made her final decision more difficult.
“It was heartbreaking at the end to tell them I was going somewhere else,” Bueckers said. “I had a lot of fun with the recruiting process.”
Bueckers didn’t take an official visit to any of the schools, a step that can’t be taken until her senior year. She did take in two head-to-head matchups between UConn and Notre Dame on unofficial visits.
“When you’re in those environments you quickly see why those programs are so good,” she said. “It was electric.”
Hopkins coach Brian Cosgriff said Auriemma was the difference-maker. He showed up countless times at Hopkins High and in the school’s Linbergh Center gymnasium.
“It makes a difference when he’s showing up for games and other schools are sending their assistant coaches,” Cosgriff said.
The Gophers entered the recruiting picture after the hiring of Lindsay Whalen last April. Previous coach Marlene Stollings appeared at Hopkins only once during her four-year tenure.
“They did a great job making a late push,” Bueckers said of the Gophers. “Lindsay is the icon of Minnesota basketball. I wish them the best. She will do great things for the program.”