UConn Paige Bueckers UConn star Paige Bueckers wants the media to spread the love to other star players next year after Caitlin Clark leaves college. Credit: Sporting News

When it comes to the spotlight, Paige Bueckers made it clear she doesn’t want all of it.

UConn‘s superstar guard made history three seasons ago when she won the Naismith College Player of the Year Award as a freshman. Bueckers’ accomplishment marked the first time a freshman had ever won the honor. Not even greats like Cheryl Miller, Dawn Staley, three-time winner Breanna Stewart, and fellow UConn Husky Cheryl Miller can say they did that.

She’s the latest great to come out of UConn. The program’s laundry list of illustrious players is almost as long as its Final Four appearance list. The Huskies will play in their 24th Final Four this weekend in Cleveland.

Attention on the women’s game has skyrocketed over the last 12-15 months. Stars have emerged like Bueckers and the great Caitlin Clark. On Friday, Bueckers and UConn will play Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Final Four. It’s a titanic matchup that we’ll need to pay attention to. This is Clark’s last hurrah in college basketball. The NCAA’s all-time leading scorer is two games, at maximum, away from her college career ending. She’ll flee Iowa for the state of Indiana soon once the Fever draft her.

So, it makes you ask, “Who’s next?”

“Who’s the next big college basketball star?”

Bueckers delivered her answer on Thursday during the UConn women’s media availability. The Minnesota native was Minnesota Nice about it. She wants to sread the love.

“I think media coverage is important for the game,” Bueckers said. “I think it grows the game. I think–I know freshman year, I was the media darling. Everybody was so focused on me and what I did at UConn my freshman year.

“But I think it’s more important for the game to share the spotlight to grow the game and show all the stars of college basketball,” she said. “Not just focus on one particular player, whether it be me, Caitlin, Juju, Angel; there’s so many names in college basketball that are huge, that are stars, that deserve credit, and I think it’s not my job. But the media can do a better job making sure everyon gets love, everyone gets not equal amount of attention, but spread it out more.

“I honestly hope I’m not the focal point and the only person that gets attention. I hope as media, as players, we can spread the love a little bit more,” Bueckers said.

Bueckers’ statement is both aspirational and level-headed. She deserves credit for her selfless approach in an individual star-driven world. Bueckers isn’t wrong, either. The game’s growth requires a spotlight on everybody. As the men’s game has learned over the years, it’s not just about the power programs. Maybe they drive the bus. But college sports can galvanize even the smallest of schools. That’s how stars are made sometimes, too.

The only universal way to ensure star-making in sports is winning. But with the right recipe, women’s college sports can keep growing all over. If someone as selfless as Paige Bueckers leads the charge, the game remains in very good hands after Clark departs Iowa City.

[The Sporting News]

About Chris Novak

Chris Novak has been talking and writing about sports ever since he can remember. Previously, Novak wrote for and managed sites in the SB Nation network for nearly a decade from 2013-2022