Point guard Paige Bueckers can read a roster as astutely as she can survey a basketball court, and that became evident Monday night when the No. 1 basketball prospect in the 2020 class announced her commitment to UConn.
"When I picked a college, I wanted a school where I can make an impact right away," Bueckers said. "Crystal [Dangerfield] is a point guard. I'm a point guard. But I don't want to take that for granted.
Dangerfield's 2020 graduation, Bueckers said, "was a big thought for me, but I didn't want that to be my whole decision. Anything can happen. I don't want to get a big head and say, 'Oh, I'm going to UConn, and I'm going to start right away.'"
As a junior this past season, the 5-foot-11 Bueckers averaged 24.4 points, 5.5 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 4.7 steals and led Hopkins (Minnetonka, Minnesota) to a state title with a 32-0 record. She earned her second straight Minnesota Gatorade Player of the Year award and already has scored 2,288 career points.
She also has won three gold medals with USA Basketball.
In addition to her sharp shooting and skilled passing, Bueckers is known to bring swagger to the court.
"I definitely didn't get that from my parents," Bueckers said with a laugh. "I think it's God's gift to me. I feel [that swagger] a little when I play. I don't think that can be taught. All thanks to the man above."
Perhaps that swagger is what drew Bueckers to UConn and coach Geno Auriemma, who are two wins away from their 12th national title.
"I think my talents will be maximized under Coach Geno," Bueckers said. "UConn appealed to me, and it appealed to my family.
"[Auriemma] kind of expected [my decision]. But he said, 'It's about time.'
"He thinks he can do great things with me, and I think so, too. That's why I chose UConn. I can't wait."
"It feels really good to take the weight off my shoulders," she said.
"As a kid, UConn was my dream school. Seeing them win all those national titles and then visiting campus and seeing them up close, it was everything I've dreamed of and more."
Bueckers becomes the sixth No. 1 prospect in the past 10 years to choose UConn, following Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (2011), Breanna Stewart (2012), Katie Lou Samuelson (2015), Megan Walker (2017) and Christyn Williams (2018). UConn's lone recruit in the 2019 class is Aubrey Griffin, a 6-1 wing out of Ossining, New York, who is ranked 33rd in the class.
Bueckers said her feeling that it would be UConn kept building throughout this season, but she wanted to finish her junior year of high school before she turned to recruiting. She is the second top-10 prospect in the 2020 class to give a verbal commitment. No. 2 Cameron Brink committed to Stanford in October.
Bueckers said she has strong relationships with Auriemma and assistant coach Chris Dailey, and she has loved her visits to the UConn campus, most recently on Nov. 2 for a Huskies exhibition game.
"The fan base is so amazing that it felt like we were playing Notre Dame in the NCAA tournament instead of an exhibition," she said. "I want to be a part of what UConn has built.
"The women's team is loved on campus. Women's basketball is what UConn is known for, and it's not like that at other schools. To see that support for women's sports is awesome."
Bueckers said she's not afraid of lofty expectations.
"I love what they do. It looks like so much fun," she said. "I know there's pressure when you have UConn across your chest, but I love pressure. I love when the rival fans hate you -- that makes the game more fun and entertaining.
"UConn plays with passion. They play the game the right way. They play team basketball. They play hard. That appeals to me because I'm a team-first player."
In the end, Bueckers said her choice came down to five words:
"When you know," she said, "you know."