These are heady times for Hopkins star Paige Bueckers. Her slick handles, assassin's mentality and ability to turn a mundane basketball play into an eye-catching, did-you-see-that moment has made her the "it" girl in the prep basketball world.
And the recognition continues to pile up: USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year, McDonald's All-America, Gatorade National Player of the Year, with more expected. The Gatorade award was presented to her at school Monday morning by Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns, who won the same honor six years ago.
And now, Bueckers is the first three-time Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year.
Much more is expected of her. Signed with women's basketball blue-blood UConn, Bueckers already has been tabbed by Huskies legendary coach Geno Auriemma as the next Diana Taurasi, the star guard who led them to three consecutive NCAA championships in the early 2000s. He believes Bueckers is the player who can restore UConn to its position of dominance.
Over the last few weeks, reporter Jim Paulsen and photojournalists Shari L. Gross and Elizabeth Flores have spent time with Bueckers, a Hopkins varsity player since eighth grade, on and off the court. They've talked about everything from the intensity she brings to the game to her outsized collection of basketball shoes.
We hope you enjoy their work as much as her fans have enjoyed watching Bueckers play.
Auriemma was among the people interviewed by Gross for her video. Talking about the transition from high school superstar to college freshman, Auriemma said: "I love to put those kids in situations where they can't win [during practice] and I want to see how they respond."
He paused and laughed: "Yeah, I'm looking forward to being mean to her."
Flores watched Bueckers during several games at the end of the regular season and during the section tournament, capturing her intensity of the court and quiet time away from it. Here are those photos, along with several from earlier in her high school career.
Who else made the Star Tribune's 2020 girls' basketball All-Metro team? Click here to see the full squad.
As Jim Paulsen wrote, Bueckers is the first three-time Metro Player of the Year winner. Here's what was written about her when she won those awards in 2018 and 2019