Video: Paige Bueckers highlights
Watch the UConn signee do it all during her senior season.
But, like so many throughout the country, the ball was taken away in March when the coronavirus pandemic canceled a slew of state championships, including Minnesota.
A 30-0 season abruptly ended for Hopkins, one win short of a second straight undefeated state-championship season. Without a ball, Bueckers took her hands to a keyboard.
"Heartbroken isn't even the word to describe the feeling I'm going through right now," she tweeted that March 13 when the season was called off. "It wasn't the ending we wanted. ..."
Perhaps this helps with Bueckers' heartache and unfinished conclusion.
After collecting National Player of the Year awards from MaxPreps and Gatorade in March, the 5-foot-10 senior point guard is the 2019-20 MaxPreps Female Athlete of the Year.
She beat out a generational distance runner, an Olympic-bound swimmer and several highly accomplished multi-sport athletes to win the prestigious award.
Previous winners including five-time Olympic gold medal swimmer Missy Franklin and WNBA standouts Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis along with sisters Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike.
The award came a day after fellow Minnesota athlete, Minnehaha Academy (Minneapolis) senior football and basketball star Jalen Suggs, won the MaxPreps Male Athlete of the Year award.
"I feel like people are finally getting to notice what a strong state Minnesota is for basketball," Bueckers said. "I think we've left our mark and there's many more great players to come."
The nation's No. 2 boys basketball recruit from the Class of 2021,
according to 247Sports, is Minnehaha Academy 7-foot post Chet Holmgren,
and Tyus Jones — a guard for the Memphis Grizzlies — and his brother,
Duke sophomore Tre Jones, were both McDonald's All-Americans at Apple
Bueckers has a unique flair for the game, while her athleticism and endless drive set her apart.
She averaged 21.4 points, 9.4 assists, 5.4 steals and 5.0 rebounds for the nation's No. 4 team. She finished an illustrious career on a 62-game win streak and with 1,998 career points, 487 rebounds, 563 assists and 405 steals.
But numbers simply don't do Bueckers justice.
She's so much fun to watch, athletically. Add in her basketball IQ and passion for the game, and it's no wonder members of the Minnesota Timberwolves, including All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns, would make a special effort to watch her play.
In January, she was also the first high school girl to ever grace the cover of Slam
It's also why Auriemma made constant visits to the Minnesota campus to help UConn secure its 12th national No. 1 recruit since 1998 — a list including Mosqueda-Lewis, Elena Delle Donne (she later transferred), Diana Taurasi, Breanna Stewart, Maya Moore and Tina Charles.
"There are kids who play basketball, and then there are basketball players," Auriemma told the Hartford Courant
. "She is a basketball player. Born to be a basketball player. Everything she does. She's a natural.
"She just plays like 'This is my personal playground. When I get the ball, I can do whatever I want with it, and you can't stop me.' … She makes the game fun for herself. And when she is not playing basketball, she is watching basketball. And when she isn't watching basketball, she is shooting baskets."
All of it has paid off.
Her high school coach Brian Cosgriff told MaxPreps girls basketball writer Clay Kallam "she sees the game two or three passes in advance." And she's so competitive he would have to pull Bueckers out of practice because she plays so hard. "I was afraid she'd get hurt."
Guilty as charged, Bueckers said: "I have a hard time listening when people tell me to slow down. Even in board games with my family, I hate losing. I always have to win."
She went out a winner, beating out these highly accomplished and deserving 2019-20 female athletes. Madison Layden, Northwestern (Kokomo, Ind.):
The 6-1 senior and Purdue signee was a fifth-team basketball All American (25.6 points per game) and had 570 kills with just 48 errors on a state finalist volleyball team.
Kelli McGroarty, Eastern (Voorhees, N.J.):
The Gatorade New Jersey soccer Player of the Year, also averaged 15 points per game in basketball and was a goalkeeper for girls lacrosse. Olivia Miles, Blair Academy (Blairstown, N.J.):
The 5-11 junior was a MaxPreps third team basketball All-American (14 points, 7.6 assists, 8.1 rebounds per game) and a soccer standout, with 17 goals in 12 matches. Anna Morris, Immaculate Heart Academy (Washington Township, N.J.):
A 5-star basketball recruit and Northwestern signee, was also the state Gatorade volleyball Player of the year. Regan Smith, Lakeville North (Lakeville, Minn.):
A world-record holder in the 100- and 200-meter backstroke, Smith appeared destined for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo that were postponed until 2021. Katelyn Tuohy, North Rockland (Thiells, N.Y.):
Won an unprecedented third straight Nike Cross national cross-country championship in November. Past MaxPreps Female High School Athletes of the Year
2007-08 — Nneka Ogwumike, Cy-Fair (Cypress, Texas): Basketball, volleyball
2008-09 — Jordan Hasay, Mission Prep (San Luis Obispo, Calif.): Cross country, track and field
2009-10 — Chiney Ogwumike, Cy-Fair (Cypress, Texas): Basketball, volleyball
2010-11 — Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.): Basketball
2011-12 — Missy Franklin, Regis Jesuit (Aurora, Colo.): Swimming
2012-13 — Missy Franklin, Regis Jesuit (Aurora, Colo.): Swimming
2013-14 — Ariana Washington, Long Beach Poly (Long Beach, Calif.): Track and field
2015-16 — Mikayla Pivec, Lynnwood (Bothell, Wash.): Cross country, basketball, track and field
2016-17 — Tara Davis, Agoura (Calif.): Track and field
2017-18 — Alissa Pili, Dimond (Anchorage, Alaska): Volleyball, basketball, track and field
2018-19 — Alissa Pili, Dimond (Anchorage, Alaska): Volleyball, basketball, track and field