Jeff Walz, Bueckers’ Team USA coach, was also honored for his work in 2019.
After a year of success across the board, USA Basketball is looking forward to the future. On Tuesday, the body announced that it has named Paige Bueckers as its Female Athlete of the Year for 2019. The Connecticut recruit becomes just the second high school student to receive the award in its nearly 40-year history.
Bueckers took part in four events for Team USA this year including the 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup, where she was named tournament MVP en route to winning a gold medal. She also participated in two 3×3 competitions and the training camp for the Women’s Junior National Team. She responded to the award on Twitter:
“When (Women’s National Team Director) Carol (Callan) called me and told me, I was kind of amazed, seeing all of the people who have won it before,” Bueckers said according to USA Basketball.
She joins many current and former basketball stars on the list of award winners, including Diana Taurasi, Breanna Stewart, and A’ja Wilson. Current North Carolina star Janelle Bailey is the only other person to win the award as a high school student; she won in 2017.
“Me being one of the youngest to get it, it just means a lot to me,” Bueckers continued. “To be able to represent my country, alone, and then to get this award, it meant even more.”
Bueckers, a native of St. Louis Park, Minn., will head to Connecticut next year to play for the Huskies. But before that, she looks to lead Hopkins High School to another Minnesota Class 4A state title. She was recognized for the USA Basketball award Tuesday night before her school’s game.
Bueckers isn’t the only person on USA’s Women’s U19 World Cup Team receiving a special honor this week. Head coach Jeff Walz was named a co-National Coach of the Year by USA Basketball as released Monday. He led Team USA to an undefeated record and a gold medal at the 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup in July.
“It definitely [is] an honor,” Walz said according to USA Basketball. “And also, it shows what type of staff we had. I was very fortunate to be able to work with (assistants) Cori (Close) and Natasha (Adair) the past two years. And then the players, obviously you don’t get such an award without having an outstanding staff and a good team.”
Team USA dominated at the World Cup under Walz, winning by an average of more than 25 points during the seven-game run. They also topped the competition in field goal percentage (.425) and blocks per game (5.7).
“I just think he is really smart, and he cared about our team a whole lot, and not just on the court, but off the court, too,” Bueckers said per USA Basketball. “He made me a better player and opened my eyes to what college is going to be like, and potentially, if I get there, the professional level, because his IQ for the game is so high. He taught me new things about the game.”
“I really appreciated her competitiveness, how hard she competes,” Walz said about Bueckers. “She’s definitely a special talent. She is able to score in all three phases of the game. She hits 3s, has a pull-up jump shot and can get to the rim. But, I just appreciate how she competes. She definitely has that competitive fire within her.”
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