UConn's Paige Bueckers says she's 'cleared and ready for takeoff' 369 days after ACL surgery

UConn's Paige Bueckers is back.

Just over one year after tearing her ACL, the 2020-21 women's college basketball National Player of the Year announced on Instagram she's "all cleared and ready for takeoff."

She noted in her post she was cleared 369 days after she had surgery to repair her ACL.

Bueckers, 21, tore the ACL in her left knee during a pickup game on Aug. 1, 2022, and went on to miss her entire junior season as she recovered and rehabbed. It's been a difficult road back for Bueckers, but UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said earlier this summer she's in a great place mentally and physically after spending the last year working on herself.

"This is the best she's ever been, the strongest she's ever been, the fittest she's ever been," Auriemma said via ESPN. "This is the most time she has spent working on her body, her mind, [and] just taking care of herself. ... [The injury layoff] showed her, if you want a long career, this is how you're gonna have to go about it from here on in injuries, no injuries, it doesn't matter. This is what you're gonna have to do. And she's embraced it."

FILE - Connecticut's Paige Bueckers is introduced during First Night events for the UConn men's and women's NCAA college basketball teams Friday, Oct. 14, 2022, in Storrs, Conn. Some star women’s players have already decided to stay in school rather than make their earliest possible jump to the WNBA and more are on the way with NIL deals and chartered travel offering appeal compared to rookie salaries and commercial flights in the WNBA. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)
UConn's Paige Bueckers is fully cleared to practice and play one year after tearing her ACL during a pickup game. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

Bueckers has missed more than just the last season with knee issues. She had to sit out much of the 2021-22 NCAA season due to a knee fracture. She was able to return late in the season, but was on a minutes limit and wasn't able to really return to form until the NCAA tournament.

Bueckers' return comes just days before UConn is set to fly to Europe for a four-game exhibition tour. In June, Bueckers said it was possible she could play at some point during the tour, but wasn't sure if it would be worth the risk. Since the season doesn't start for three months, she has plenty of time to ramp up if she sits out the European exhibition games.

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